Spin Cycle

11.18.12

Slate Editor Admits Enjoying Petraeus Soap Opera

David Plotz on why journalists love scandal.
Video screenshot

Howard Kurtz sits down with Slate's David Plotz

David Plotz, the editor of Slate, makes no apology for enjoying the David Petraeus saga.

“There’s a biblical element in this whole scandal which resonates with all of us,” he tells me in a video interview. “Who can’t be mesmerized by it and feel that great leaders are perhaps entitled to great sins, private sins?”

But doesn’t the current level of coverage amount to overkill?

Plotz flashes back to the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation, the good old days in his view. He calls that “a kind of grotesque thing that got out of control and was so much fun,” providing “a great time as a reporter.  This Petraeus story, it doesn’t implicate national security in any serious way, there’s nothing that really appears to show that America is in danger, it’s just an amazing human story…It’s tragic, it’s comic…Who wouldn’t revel in it, especially all these reporters who just came off the campaign trail?”

Put Plotz down as an unabashed reveler.

Shortly before the election, Slate polled its staff and reported that 31 were voting for Barack Obama and two for Mitt Romney. What does that tell us?

The meaning, says Plotz, is that Slate staffers “live in big cities, which lean very Democratic, they work for a profession, journalism, which is a heavily Democratic profession. I don’t think anyone who’s spent any time around journalists can deny that the vast majority of journalists lean to the left.”

And the impact on the website, for which he’s worked since it launched as a joint venture with Microsoft in 1996?

“I don’t think it means that the work you do is corrupted or infected necessarily,” Plotz says.