Taylor Lorenz doesn’t strike me as a die-hard football fan, but it would behoove her to watch the post-game interview quarterback Matthew Stafford gave NBC after he helped lead her hometown Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl victory. Although Stafford played an instrumental role helping the Rams win the championship, he focused entirely on his gratitude for the efforts of his teammates, his coaches, and the team’s management. He understood the Rams victory wasn’t just about him.

Stafford knows all too well that mutual respect, trust, and teamwork are what great teams and organizations are made of. Stafford for 12 years played for the Detroit Lions, and despite being an elite quarterback, he had a better chance of getting hit by lightning than winning the Super Bowl with that moribund team. Stafford was traded last year to the Rams, a considerably better run team that provided him the moving parts he needed to earn his first championship ring.

Lorenz, who recently joined the Washington Post from the New York Times, apparently doesn’t value and respect her new or former colleagues the way Stafford regards his. In fact, she intimates the Post is just a brand building pit stop on her way to pursuing more internet glory.

Taylor Lorenz/Twitter photo

“When you think about the future of media, it’s much more distributed and about personalities,” Lorenz told Business Insider. “Younger people recognize the power of having their own brand and audience, and the longer you stay at a job that restricts you from outside opportunities, the less relevant your brand becomes.”

Although Lorenz caught some flack on Twitter for her comments, she doubled down in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“I think sometimes I forget how a lot of people are still marinating in this old system that’s kind of dying,” Lorenz told the Times. “It’s so funny to me when those people are like ‘journalists aren’t brands.’ It’s like, what the hell are you talking about? Barbara Walters wasn’t a brand?”

Reading Lorenz’s comments, I immediately thought to myself, “Like, does she know who Woodward and Bernstein were?” The woman lands a job at a publication legendary for its investigative reporting that brought down a president, and she’s waxing on about Barbara Walters.

Lorenz’s admiration of Walters is telling, as the former television anchor and host was viewed as playing an initial role in the downfall of journalism. Walters was the first television anchor to be paid $1 million a year, and she was mercilessly mocked by Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live. While satirizing journalists today is commonplace, Walters provided the pioneering fodder.

Lorenz’s expertise is supposedly social media trends and influencer culture, something she can speak about with authority. Lorenz has amassed an audience of more than 500,000 TikTok followers, and more than 261,000 followers on Twitter. Lorenz said she joined the Post because the publication would allow her to pursue more independent brand building opportunities.

“Legacy newsrooms have only built a specific type of person as a brand. It’s this cisgender, white, privileged kind of outlook,” she said. “They’re all pretty homogenous. And if you look at this rise of the internet and talent bubbling up from the internet, it’s a much more diverse group of people. For media companies to compete with that, they need to diversify who they view as talent.”

Lorenz, 37, knows quite a bit about white privilege. According to her Wikipedia page, she grew up in Old Greenwich, CT, and attended a Swiss boarding school. Greenwich is the wealthiest and one of the whitest places in all of Connecticut. Lorenz first attended University of Colorado, Boulder, and then transferred to Hobart and William Smith Colleges where she graduated with an undergraduate degree in political science. The tuition for Hobart and William Smith Colleges is $58,990, plus $16,000 for room and board.

Publications that allow the brands of their journalists to overshadow their own do so at their own peril. When I think of the New York Times, I no longer associate it with its storied journalism history and its once admirable standards to maintain fairness and balance. Rather, I image Nikole Hannah-Jones, the amateur historian who spearheaded the publication’s “1619 Project” that was discredited by professional historians but helped enrich Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones played a pivotal role in the firing of veteran science reporter Donald McNeil and the execution of former op-ed editor James Bennett. Hannah-Jones’ accusations that the media’s coverage of Russia’s attack on Ukraine is motivated because Ukrainians are white aren’t credible to me.

Until today, I associated the Washington Post with Rachael Bade, the Congressional reporter who in 2019 tweeted a photo of her and four colleagues captioned, “Merry Impeachmous from the WaPo team!” Some people, including President Trump, took the tweet as a celebration of the hearings to impeach him. I wrote about the incident two years ago.

Turns out, Bade no longer works at the Post. She’s now a co-author of the Politico Playbook, a closely read newsletter among Beltway denizens.

Rachael Bade

There was a time when landing a job at the New York Times and the Washington Post was viewed as having reached the pinnacle of American journalism, where journalists hoped to remain for the duration of their careers. Working at these places was rewarding but also intimidating because they once attracted the best and brightest in the industry, whose collective talents served up great journalism, much like the cohesion of this year’s L.A. Rams resulted in a championship football team.

Lorenz thinks the Times and Post are fortunate to benefit from her talents and services because she can help them “think in a more forward-thinking way and a more inclusive way.” I feel sorry for her. When I worked in daily journalism, what I found rewarding was working for people with considerably more experience than me from whom I could learn and better my skills.

One thing is for certain: the Washington Post desperately needs help.

According to documents leaked to The Wall Street Journal, unique visitors to the Post’s website in October were down 28 percent to 66 million from a year ago. The Post’s digital subscriptions fell to 2.7 million in October from 3 million in January, despite aggressive discount promotions. Most alarmingly, only 14 percent of the Post’s subscribers are under 55 compared with 61 percent of the U.S. adult population. Admittedly, other legacy publications and broadcast outlets are experiencing readership and viewership declines, but notably only Politico has seen a bigger drop than the Post.  

The Post no doubt hopes that Lorenz will help increase its paltry younger readership. My bet is that she will lead many of them over to TikTok.

Display photo credit: ©sharafmaksumov/123RF.COM

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.