“We love politics and are passionate about what we do but are a strictly nonpartisan team.”
This line was written by someone at TBD.com, the new Washington, D.C.-based web startup, in a help wanted ad. Billing itself as a new hybrid of traditional news — the site is the baby of Allbritton Communications, owner of an ABC affiliate and Politico — local blogs and TV, TBD was in the news for a few weeks this summer when it launched. And now, perhaps in a bid to lure hits, the nonpartisan mask is slipping off.
The most obvious example of this is Amanda Hess, TBD’s sex columnist. Hess, like many, many of TBD’s most visible writers and editors, was hired away from D.C.’s hipster weekly, The Washington City Paper. And she’s about as “strictly nonpartisan” as Barbara Boxer.
In her most recent post, which is nicely displayed on TBD’s front page, Hess scolds The Daily Caller. The Caller ran a story by Caroline May about how many women are unaware of the link between the birth control pill and cancer. Hess is having none of it:
A note on cancer and the pill: Outside human-life circles, the verdict on the pill’s link to cancer is more nuanced. Some studies show that use of the pill is related to a “slightly elevated risk” of breast cancer. Others don’t reveal a link. Because some studies show that pill users are more likely to be diagnosed with an earlier stage of breast cancer than are non-users, some researchers speculate that the uptick in cancer cases could be a sign of early detection instead of (or in addition to) increased risk of cancer. Studies have also consistently shown a link between pill use and a decrease in ovarian cancer risk.
Not so fast. In her reporting, Hess failed to reveal all the facts about breast cancer and the pill. The facts she cites are correct, but if you click on the link provided you see a couple other facts: use of the pill has been linked to increase risk for cervical and liver cancer. Also not cited by Hess are reports that the pill can decrease libido.
Hess’s columns are a combination of hectoring zealotry for abortion and any kind of sex that will piss off any conservative anywhere, and tired hipster snark. If you read Hess’s own bio on the website you get the idea:
I moved to the District of Columbia in 2003 to get my degree in creative writing. I am now lucky to be gainfully employed — particularly at TBD, where I’ll be reporting on LGBT issues, sex crimes, and the oddity of local fornication. I started covering the sex and gender beat for the Washington City Paper, where I wrote about the D.C. police department’s attempt to stop a rape victim from getting a rape kit, and Catholic University’s attempts to stop college kids from getting laid.
In one respect, none of this is noteworthy. I mean, if TBD wants to attract eyes by splashing sex, sex, sex all over their “news” site, whatever. Hess wants attention, and the way that the herd of independent liberal minds does that is by attacking Catholicism and shoving LGTB in our faces. But in another sense it’s very sad. TBD was supposed to be something new and revolutionary, a bold new digital frontier that would be hyper local and change the way news was done. They would be hyper local! Cover every brick of D.C. As the motto says, they would be “all over DC.” Well, except for conservative lectures and book signings. And religious events and people. Aside form that, they have been all over it.
Instead, TBD has become a regular old news site, albeit one with a sex fetish. It’s become the Washington Post without the pedigree or the writers or the wit. Or the diversity — after all, the Post has been known to let a conservative into its pages. But I forgot — TBD is a nonpartisan enterprise. And I’m Lenny Bruce.
When TBD was launched, editor Erik Wemple made this interesting and unintentionally revealing observation: “We will be as aggressive in correcting our mistakes as we are in making them.” Well, he was half right.
Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author of several books, including Damn Senators and God and Man at Georgetown Prep. His articles and essays have appeared in various publications.