Ruth Shalit, the infamously bad journalist with whom the '90s-era media had a very deliciously tortured relationship, is back.
It seems to be a quiet return. This blogger would never have noticed Shalit's return from journalist purgatory if not for thumbing through last month's paper copy of Elle while in line for the office bathroom. There, on a profile of Fifty Shades of Grey heartthrob Jamie Dornan, was a strange byline: Ruth Shalit Barrett. Could it be? It was. Has she returned for more whippings from the press? Or is she here to whip us? Oh, my Fifty.
In 1999, Shalit was the subject of a lacerating profile by David Carr in the Washington City Paper, noting her numerous journalistic fuck-ups, including plagiarism and gross inaccuracy in several pieces for the New Republic. Her attempt to take down The Washington Post over its affirmative action policies was disastrous—she pinned one writer as Latino when he wasn't; accused editors of rising to the top because of their race when they got there by merit.
Shalit represented the ills of media cronyism—even when she was thoroughly discredited and left journalism for advertising, she was rewarded with a column in Salon to write about that business.
As Carr wrote of her:
She certainly had a snug purchase on permission at the New Republic, judging by the way she held on in a Washington she deems unforgiving. She made it through myriad plagiarism charges, a blistering counterattack from the Post, a libel suit—and, it should be mentioned, three editors. That the New Republic would be so publicly in the unaccountability business is low farce. A shop that practically invented comeuppance, it specializes in tough-minded hit pieces that lay bare the shortcutting and self-dealing of countless intended targets. ("I wrote a lot of tart, skeptical pieces that probably did not increase world happiness in the aggregate," Shalit observes.) But the magazine never diagnosed the same sort of malignancy in Shalit.
When the olde New Republic imploded in December, there was spirited discussion of the stain Shalit left on the magazine. She is indeed a part of the storied magazine's semi-dark legacy. And now she is a part of Elle's, too, for this:
My heart is pounding. My legs are pure jelly. I'm a quivering mess. Christian Grey is sitting across from me.
He's so good-looking, it's unnerving. His hair is tousled. His gaze is steely, like molten gray fire.
Oh my. I swallow my Diet Coke convulsively. What's happening? What's he going to do now?
His long-fingered hands reach for the cheese plate. I gasp and flush scarlet as he piles Manchego and chorizo on crusty bread. "Mmmm," he says.
He looks up at me, his eyes full of some unfathomable question.
Holy cow. Could this be more erotic?
"Is this whole-grain mustard?" he asks.
(I have taken this article to my own personal Red Room to check it for plagiarism. It seems to have behaved.)
[Pic via Getty]