Comments: Week of April 19, 2010

1. Last week’s cover feature by Lisa Taddeo depicted the barter economy of sex and money in high-class nightclubs, as embodied by Rachel Uchitel, the VIP handler and Tiger Woods’s prime consort (“Rachel Uchitel Is Not a Madam,” April 12). “A horrifying, irresistible article,” wrote Jonathan Chait on his blog at The New Republic. “Very well-written and completely fascinating.” Comments on were deeply divided between those offended by the club scene described and those who thought it should be left alone. “I have to take a long shower after reading this article. Such a sad, empty, shallow life of people just using one another and not seeing each other as human beings. I shudder to think of what their childhoods must have been like to turn out to be such dysfunctional narcissists,” said one commenter. “I spent a few years working in the nightclub industry,” admitted another. “Most of what is written in this article is true; however, there is some exaggeration. I saw a lot of weird shit when I worked in nightclubs. But I also made friends. There are some good people, some honest people who are working at night to make a living in order to fulfill whatever dreams they have.”

2. Jennifer Senior looked at how the endless gridlock of our current Senate is affecting the mood of its members (“Mr. Woebegone Goes to Washington,” April 12), and she explored the many reasons the Upper Chamber is increasingly resembling its more unruly congressional counterpart, the House. Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo linked to the article on his Editor’s Blog, declaring it a “must-read piece.” Dan Testa at the blog on Flathead Beacon praised the story, noting that it “delves into a lot of poignant anecdotes from long-serving senators about how fun and rewarding service in the Senate used to be. The piece is long and sad, but worth a read. It truly is impossible to imagine the modern Senate operating like this.” Other readers noted that it missed an opportunity to prescribe a wholesale revamping of Senate rules. “It’s a fun account,” noted the American Prospect blog, Tapped. “Senior isn’t naïve, but it’s clear that there’s no way to re-create the peculiar ideological and partisan scramble of the late-fifties–early-seventies Senate. Institutional reform is the only way to transform a legislative body that already behaves like the House, to one that legislates like the House.” Matthew Yglesias at his blog on ThinkProgress agreed, noting that the piece “has a tremendous amount of merit. But in terms of moving forward and improving things, I think dwelling on all the stuff that’s gone wrong can be sort of a distraction and an impediment to clear thinking … The highly individualistic nature of the Senate is anachronistic—a legacy of a different period in American life. We have a partisan politics these days, and what we need are political institutions that fit that paradigm.

3. After reading Michael Hirschorn’s “Intelligencer” argument that the recent decline in CNN’s ratings might not be quite the woeful situation it seems (“Don’t Cry for CNN,” April 12), Jay Rosen (whose ideas for transforming the network are mentioned in the piece as “pontificating”) came on to to respond: “Permit me a note of annoyance. To tell everyone I’m pontificating without linking to my post so people can see whether that’s all I’m doing makes you a jerk in my book, Michael. This is the web. Use it for what it can do. You cannot only ridicule another writer, you can send people to see what’s so ridiculous about him.” Hirschorn and Rosen then took their spirited debate onto Twitter. “Wasn’t mocking you in my NYMag piece,” tweeted Hirschorn. “Thought your ideas were the best, actually. But always easier to comment than to execute change. Lighten up!” Rosen fired back, “Okay, I’ll work on lightening up. You work on: ‘Don’t be such a traffic pig and at least link to a post when dissing it.’ ” Hirschorn got in a last jab: “Here’s your link, dude. I loved those extra 20 page views. Why are new-media critics such humorless scolds?” Rosen wasn’t the only one to take offense at Hirschorn’s argument. Reader Gary Stern wrote, “Only in America do you get criticized for trying to maintain some self-respect as a news organization.” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat stepped to Hirschorn’s defense, calling his assessment of CNN “brutal but fair … It ought to be liberating as well: Once your old business model dies and your obit has been written, what do you have to lose?”

4. In the story “The Salt-o-Meter” in the February 22 issue, we inadvertently but grossly inflated the level of salt of one of the tested products. A laboratory error that occurred during testing measured the amount of sodium in a medium-size frozen yogurt from Pinkberry as 1,450 milligrams per 255-gram serving. The lab has since revised its calculations. The correct amount is 117 milligrams. We regret the error.

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Comments: Week of April 19, 2010