The Washington Independent

This post is kind of boring. But that also means no animals were murdered in the course of writing it, which means you can consume it without any guilt or trepidation.

A few weeks ago I made one of those predictions that are so obviously true as to be borderline witless, namely that we’re in the midst of the rise of the partisan media, a point made far more persuasively by David Frum and others. I’ll just add that this development is likely to have highlights as well as lowlights, and that The Washington Independent, which just launched today, will likely be one of the highlights. Sponsored by the Center for Independent Media, the site is part of a flourishing ecosystem of nonprofits, for-profits, think tanks, media outlets, and nontraditional pressure groups that’s grown out of the Howard Dean campaign and the broader (self-styled) progressive movement. As a webdesign fetishist, I was struck by the ease of navigation. I’d do things a little differently, to be sure (EveryBlock more closely reflects my aesthetic preferences), but it is a clean, fairly attractive look that captures the spirit of a lean blog-newspaper hybrid.

The Independent‘s staff is impressive, and landing Spencer Ackerman was a coup. As much as I disagree with Josh Marshall — I really, really disagree with him about a lot — I’m one of the people who thinks he deserves a Pulitzer. Now his innovative approach is finding converts — the Independent is stocked with veterans of traditional journalism. And talented alumni of Marshall’s School of Distributed Journalism are going to have a lasting impact on the media business.

One small quibble: two of the maiden opinion pieces, by Bruce Schulman and Michael Kazin, were disappointing, particularly Kazin’s (because I expected more from Kazin, a genuinely brilliant dude). Apart from being dry and not terribly provocative or surprising, they were both longer than I’d expect from an outfit that hopes to do something distinctly webby. That’s not to say webby needs to be short — note the dramatic success of Glenn Greenwald, who is very careful and very long-winded. Rather, it means the traditional, awkward op-ed length needn’t fence you in. Overall, though, I think this is a tremendously promising effort and I look forward to reading more.

Many moons ago, Patrick Ruffini predicted that the right’s failure to create comparable agenda-sitting institutions would prove costly. That will become very clear in the general election.