City Desk

Weekend in Review

Not sure whether the Newseum has an exhibit titled "Beat Sweeteners: A Quadrennial Tradition." But if there is, I nominate Anne Kornblut's Saturday piece in the Washington Post for a central place behind the glass. I am speaking of this piece of puffery, a profile of White House "fixer" and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina. Now, if Messina has ever done anything untoward, anything tawdry or dumb, well, we're not going to know that from Kornblut. Because here's what she's got to say about this man:

Starting with the lede:

Holed up in a windowless West Wing office, Jim Messina is working on his usual assignment: fixing President Obama's problems.

Next graph:

The exact nature of that task changes from day to day. In January, when tax troubles surfaced, first threatening Timothy F. Geithner's nomination, Obama asked Messina, his deputy chief of staff, to smooth over the situation on Capitol Hill. (He did.)

Good job, Messina!

Messina, 39, has one of the lowest profiles of any key player in the top tiers of the Obama administration. But he has already become known as a key "fixer" in the operation — both because of his extensive ties to political operatives and lawmakers, especially in the Senate, and because of his relentless focus of purpose that mirrors that of his immediate superior, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Focus of purpose? Can we get an editor over there, please?

And then, the de rigueur part of any White House beat sweetener, in which the reporter pays homage to the staffer's long work day:

Like the rest of the staff, Messina has a staggering schedule, starting with phone calls before 7 a.m. on his way into work and ending at 9 p.m., when he heads to the gym for a workout each night.

And here's the teaser for a video chat with the guy:

The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut chats with White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina about working long hours, multitasking and leadership.

I mean, if all that doesn't guarantee that Messina will return Kornblut's next call, I'm not sure what more she could have done. But could the story be too far over the top? Is it possible that this piece of journalism is just too puffy to be a beat sweetener? Think about this scenario—Kornblut gets a tip about some dust-up between the president and Capitol Hill. So she calls some people on the Hill, and then Messina. She presses the 39-year-old hard-working, dedicated fixer who tolerates no ineptitude whatsoever on the job. But as she pushes, Messina pushes back, saying this: Hey, Anne, I'd really like to help you, but considering what you wrote about me, everyone is going to know it came from me.

Another point about the Post this past weekend: The Sunday story about the imminent arrest in the Chandra Levy case has this line: "The police probe into Levy's killing ramped up in recent months after The Washington Post in July published a 13-part serial narrative investigation into the case that pointed to Guandique as the most likely suspect. He has denied involvement in Levy's death."

"ramped up...after": That's very carefully worded. There is no direct statement of causality saying that the Post stories motivated or otherwise forced the cops to dig in on the case again. But the sentiment is there. What's the deal? That's worth checking into.

But the other thing about the Levy story is its provenance. WRC-TV and a couple of California stations have been widely credited with breaking the news. Wondering how the Post, which devoted a 13-piece narrative to this matter over the summer, didn't get in on the act.

What else? WashTimes has the skinny on the departure of Marcus Washington from the Skins. Always one of my favorites.

NYT: Stop talking about a depression!

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