Marketwatch columnist Jon Friedman celebrated NBC Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker as a “prince of the city” in Washington (there’s more than one?). Whitaker was captured expressing relief he left behind that sinking ship (or “burning building”) at Newsweek for the greener pastures of TV news:
At around that period he had already begun to ponder an exit strategy from the company when NBC News chief Steve Capus called out of the blue and asked Whitaker to be his deputy.
“It was not a psychologically healthy situation to hang around,” Whitaker says.
Some observers suspect that since Whitaker left Newsweek, the magazine has lost ground to Time (and The Week) in relevancy. Whitaker himself wisely steered clear of the potentially explosive subject, but he did tell me, choosing his words carefully: “There is some evidence that has been borne out. I always believed that we (Newsweek) had to be more provocative and break more news — and that if we lost that edge, we’d slip precipitously.”
“Choosing his words carefully,” Whitaker said Newsweek has slipped precipitously down a cliff once he left. What a princely effort at diplomacy.
Friedman was too busy celebrating Whitaker to quibble with the notion that Capus called “out of the blue” for Whitaker. Capus earned an Ida Wells award from the National Association of Black Journalists for hiring Whitaker in response to the Don Imus race controversy at MSNBC:
Beyond the Imus controversy, the Wells jury also took note of the diversity on display in Mr. Capus inner circle of managers, including the recent selection of former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker as senior vice president of NBC News and the elevation of Lyne Pitts to vice president of the news division. Their ascent under Capus direction affirms a dedication to increasing the opportunities for and the coverage of people of color, qualities that the Wells Award was established to highlight.
Speaking of American royalty, does Whitaker favor the Obamas? Friedman suggests yes:
Whitaker also is feeling less like an outsider in Washington. He approves of the cultural changes the Obamas are bringing to the Beltway. “Washington was never as culturally exciting as New York, but it is becoming culturally hip, thanks to Michelle Obama.”
….”I’m intrigued whether Obama can succeed in shaping the culture of Washington,” Whitaker noted. “He does believe that the culture is too partisan and too focused on short-term results as well as how politicians play to cable TV news an the stock market.”
For the moment, Whitaker sticks to a cautiously optimistic script. “It’s going to be a long, slow process. The risk for Obama and his advisers is that they are going to get thin-skinned toward the media and hunker down, as previous administrations have done.”
How on earth will Team Obama grow “thin-skinned” toward people who applaud them as the cure to partisanship and as the avatars of cultural hipness?