City Desk

Democratic Narrative: Enlivened

In May, when the Washington Post announced that Ned Martel would be leaving his perch atop an increasingly insurrectionist Style section, the news was accompanied by a memo that, for a brief minute, made it look like the controversial editor’s new gig represented an upward move. Martel, it announced, would be covering the 2012 campaign, where he would “direct his ambitions at the terrain less covered by other reporters,” a landscape that included “the personalities, the offbeat, the veiled dramas that enliven the narrative of our democracy.”

The results? The intervening five months have been dense with offbeat personalities, but Martel’s bylines haven’t focused on the rise of Rick Perry, the antics of Herman Cain, or other conventionally defined campaign narratives. A sampling:

Washington Post's Ned Martel Enlivens the Democratic Narrative

  • Headline: "The Two Freds"
  • Date: Nov. 1
  • Subject: Moderate Republican congressman Fred Upton gains power by moving right
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: Medium. The woe-is-Washington story about partisanship isn't exactly terrain less covered. But, on the plus side, it is about politics.

 

  • Headline: “What (Not) to Wear”
  • Date: Oct. 29
  • Subject: Politician costumes are not popular this Halloween.
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: Low. So, 1,000 Americans—in a non-election year—tell a pollster that they’d rather go as Lady Gaga than Sarah Palin?

 

Washington Post's Ned Martel Enlivens the Democratic Narrative

  • Headline: “Purple Reign”
  • Date: Oct. 14
  • Subject: Michelle Obama’s choice of an ultra-violet gown by a Korean-American designer for a state dinner honoring South Korea’s leader
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: Low. It’s a state dinner story. (Though Mrs. Obama’s husband will be on the ballot next year.)

 

  • Headline: “TV’s Night to Flaunt It”
  • Date: Sept. 19
  • Subject: Reports from the red carpet outside the Emmy Awards
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: None. Unless you count the fact that Julianna Margulies (who was “much too much adorned with tumor-sized crystals”) plays a pol’s wife.

 

Washington Post's Ned Martel Enlivens the Democratic Narrative

  • Headline: “Marking a Spectacle of Yourself”
  • Date: Sept. 18
  • Subject: Presidential flack Jay Carney is the latest Washington figure to wear hipster glasses.
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: Moderate. Not much of a narrative here, but if the semiotics of eyewear are a new political-culture divide, that’s interesting. Sort of.

 

  • Headline: “Terps’ Sartorial Victory Remains in Dispute”
  • Date: Sept. 7
  • Subject: The University of Maryland’s new football uniform
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: None. Unless the drama is so veiled that regular folks can’t follow it, Oprah pal Gayle King’s opinion on her alma mater’s outfit is not a 2012 factor.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/terps-sartorial-finish-in-dispute/2011/09/06/gIQAI3Ps7J_story.html

  • Headline: “Love and a 12-Gauge”
  • Date: Aug. 29
  • Subject: Congressman Leonard Boswell fights off intruders in his house
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: Moderate. It’s in Iowa! And it’s a compelling yarn! Unfortunately, it’s not about the 2012 race.

 

  • Headline“In Case of World War III, His Treasure Box is Packed”
  • Date: Aug. 15
  • Subject: The curator who helps decide which National Gallery of Art pieces go in special storage for a quick emergency move
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: None. Unless Michele Bachmann starts calling for the destruction of the Smithsonian.

 

  • Headline: “Art-loving Lawmaker Frames a Turf Battle”
  • Date: June 20
  • Subject: Rep. John Mica’s plans to expand the National Gallery of Art
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: Moderate. Calling the scrum “an epic turf battle in Washington” may be a bit much, but it does have power and ego.

Washington Post's Ned Martel Enlivens the Democratic Narrative

  • Headline: “Politics of Portrayal in Too Big to Fail
  • Date: May 23
  • Subject: What happened when actors in HBO’s financial-collapse movie met their real-life counterparts
  • Democratic Narrative Enlivenment Factor: Moderate. Washington bigs spinning thespians to get positive portrayals? Interesting. Lack of verdict on whether they succeeded? Not so much.

 

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  • Joe Warminsky

    I'm still wondering why that Halloween costume story said that it was OK to wear a Geico Caveman costume.

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