I’ve got a series of sites I check out each morning. I start with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, my local paper, and The New York Times. Then I drop by Slate, CNN, Charles P. Pierce’s Esquire blog, Facebook and always — always — Talking Points Memo.
TPM started in late 2000 and I’ve been following it almost as long — since 2001 or 2002, I imagine. It began as the blog of one man, Joshua Micah Marshall, and has become a full-service news site, with investigative articles, cultural commentary, an election poll tracker and news briefs.
I read it for all that. But I really come for Josh.
I admire Josh (though we’ve never met, he’s so familiar it seems silly to call him “Marshall”) for his entrepreneurial instincts, which have allowed him to build a one-man operation into a fully staffed organization. But I appreciate him even more deeply for his common sense and measured language. When other news organizations are hammering the latest poll or alleged scandal with breathless headlines (and pedestrian prose), Josh and TPM prefer to take the thoughtful route. (If TPM’s headlines are breathless, you know it’s parody.)
Take the ongoing story on Russia and Donald Trump. Marshall was on it early, though he began from a different place: musing about the failure of Trump to release his tax returns. That led to thoughts on how much the real estate developer was actually worth — was he hiding the fact that he’s really just a run-of-the-mill multimillionaire? — and then to questions about who was willing to invest in him, given that many major U.S. banks are not. Marshall’s questions weren’t wild guesses — he studied the paperwork and talked to sources and was careful to say that his speculations were merely that, speculations. He played it low key. It’s his style. (He’ll never make it as a cable-news talking head, that’s for sure.)
Perhaps it comes from his study of history. (Marshall is also Dr. Josh Marshall, with a Ph.D. from Brown. He wrote his dissertation on 17th-century New England.) Josh often takes the long view. He’ll note when something is immediately damaging (or heroic), but he knows that today’s news cycle can’t wait to tear down or build up afresh, and it’s just a matter of time before the little blips that fuel cable news are forgotten.
Even when the drumbeat on a story is his — as with TPM’s award-winning coverage of the Bush U.S. Attorneys scandal — he doesn’t go in for Drudge-like 72-point headlines in victory. Maybe it loses him some easy clicks, but as a longtime reader, I appreciate it.
Keep up the good work, Josh.