The Mirror

Slate’s Dave Weigel Orchestrates Online Therapy Session

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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A cry for help? A reluctance to directly interact with people IRL (sorry, in real life)?

Whatever it was, last week, Slate‘s Dave Weigel broached a topic some might see as more fitting for a dinner table, a barroom or well, a therapist’s couch. Whatever the case, online friends on Facebook came out of the woodwork to help him.

“I love the travel, I love being where weird politics are happening, but in some ways I am deeply tired of what I do for a living,” Weigel confided to all his Facebook pals. When Will Caskey, a research director at Chicago Forward, suggested he’d make a good consultant, Weigel grew pensive, saying “I dunno, Will. I’m just tired of writing about raw politics and a little unsure of how to change my focus. (This is totally apart from the music book side-gig which is going well.)”

And the floodgates of advice opened, with everyone from Washington City Paper editor Mike Madden to The Nation‘s Michelle Goldberg and HuffPost‘s Arthur Delaney providing comforting thoughts, amid what appear to be garden variety followers trying to soothe Weigel’s angst.

Matt Robare came through with this suggestion: “Become a pundit. It requires no effort whatsoever.”

Weigel again unloaded. “Good point, Matt Robare, but I don’t care about politics qua [sic] politics like I sued [sic] to and do not yet have a good radar for finding other kinds of stories.”

Marley Jay, who studied at Northwestern (Weigel’s alma mater), remarked, “What you do for a living sounds exhausting.”

Kathy Kattenberg, a stranger, had advice for Weigel. She said finding other kinds of stories might be a welcome change. She’s also noticed changes in Weigel.

“Writing about ordinary people and how they’re affected by the raw politics. Like, politics applied to people’s lives in quiet ways,” she wrote. “I could be completely wrong — after all, I don’t know you at all — but maybe it’s the bullshit of raw politics that you’re getting tired of. I don’t know exactly how to say this, and I hope it doesn’t come out wrong, but I’m not surprised that you’re saying this, about being tired of what you do for a living and not enjoying politics for its own sake as you used to, because it confirms a sense I’ve been getting from your posts on FB in the last few weeks or so that something about you either has changed or is changing. Not in your professional writing, but here, on FB. You just *sound* different.”

Jonathan Kay seconded her comments: “Yeah, you seem depressed.”

Daniel Foster, an editor at National Review, urged him to question his thinking: “You’d miss the hustle and you’d be back. You’re a fiend.”

Still others offered more tangible advice.

“When the prog book is published you should take a break to promote it. Maybe a longer one than the ‘breaks’ you’ve taken to write it,” advised John Tabin.

Washington City Paper‘s Madden wrote, “You could always write another cover story for me.”

Bloomberg’s Freeman Klopott chimed in, saying, “Get a job in a mid-sized market covering cops and courts and start over. It’ll build that radar for other types of stories and give you a taste of something entirely different.”

Other online friends, meanwhile, provided empathy and warm fuzzies.

  • “Take a long vacation – you are one of the best political writers in the US and the absence of your insight and your voice would be a great loss.”
  • “I hear that, Dave. I get easily exhausted just READING about all this constant crap happening. (Less so when it’s written by you.)”
  • “But *we need you* to do it. where else are we going to get Your writing, insights, and cutting wit are some of the best out there. And without you those crevices of intrigue would go unexplored. Take a vacation, a real vacation, get outside the US, recharge, but keep at it.” — Randall Bennington, formerly of Conde Nast.
  • “You work hard, dude.”
  •  “I felt the exact same a a year ago. Changing my focus to long-form writing, so that I didn’t need to keep up with every micro-story, helped a lot. So did taking a break from blabbing on TV all the time.” — The Nation‘s Goldberg.

A man named Chuck Weigel (uncertain if there is any blood relation here) offered another kind of encouragement. “Write through it!” he urged. “You are good at what you do. Let it pay the bills while you explore other stuff.”

More random advice:

HuffPost‘s Delaney: “Start a rock band.”

“I think it shows in your articles. And has been building for a while now. Refocus your perspective. Put more energy into the stuff you like in your life and the work will shift that way too. Sounds hokey but it tends to work.”

“The world will try to keep you doing whatever you’ve been a success at in the past. You don’t need to let the world have its way, though. You know what you’d be good at? International reporting. Your talent for relating to different kinds of people would be useful in that field, and you’d be meeting a greater variety of interesting people.”

At least one online advisor instructed Weigel to leave the profession.

“Politics has become increasingly trivial and mindlessly petty. Intellectually it is entirely vapid, especially at the national level. The past five years or so I have also become bored by it and increasingly unimpressed by the quality of people attracted to it. It’s a field well worth leaving.”

There was also love — from freelance copywriter Dan Collins.  “I would say that we’re all tired of what you do for a living, Dave, but I love you,” he wrote. “Kind of. In a guy way.”

Columnist James Widgerson seemed to ignore him entirely.

“Are you coming to Waukesha for Tuesday’s primary?”