NY Times Vomits Rainbows on MSNBC's New Star Ronan Farrow, 'Fair-haired Ubermensch' and Future President

If journalism school began with a course on Avoiding Puff Pieces, they could use as text this Sunday New York Times article by Michael Schulman: “Ronan Farrow: The Youngest Old Guy in the Room.” MSNBC’s newest star is puffed as large as the Sta-Puf Marshmallow Giant in "Ghostbusters."  It invites the neologism "Ipe-cackle."  It's so vomitous it's humorous.

This is how it started: “‘Wow, he’s handsome,’ one dinner guest said, peering over a throng of photographers. ‘He’s going to be our president in, like, 30 years,’ another gushed.” It was all downhill from there, at increasing speed:

The event, last Monday at the American Museum of Natural History, was a benefit for the Blue Card, which aids Holocaust survivors, and the object of the room’s collective kvelling was Ronan Farrow, the 25-year-old lawyer, diplomat, author, boy genius, offspring of two celebrities (though which two is an open question), possessor of alabaster good looks and, as of this month, the latest talent to join MSNBC, where he will host a weekday show starting in January.

Like a styled valedictorian, Mr. Farrow worked his way through the well wishers, his corn-colored hair lightly tousled. Though he already has the résumé of someone twice his age, in the last year Mr. Farrow has come into his own as a public figure, appearing on Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list and applying his spiky Twitter commentary to everything from politics (“Leadership in America just turned into a pumpkin”) to pop culture (“Miley Cyrus is basically our generation’s Simone de Beauvoir”).

Let's hope that's a joke. The most ridiculous part of this puff piece is imagining that Farrow can in any way claim that his career is disassociated from his famous (and to push the career, gossip-laden) parentage. Even if he’s a pundit prodigy, how many 25-year-old anchors has MSNBC picked up over the last 15 years? Chris Matthews is razzing him for potentially being Frank Sinatra’s kid ("Young Blue Eyes"), but that has nothing to do with acquiring his new gig:

For Mr. Farrow, the Sinatra question is part of a lifelong quandary: how to make a name based on your accomplishments when your family history is so relentlessly interesting. Perhaps driven by a desire to outpace his parental saga, Mr. Farrow has barreled through life at least five years ahead of schedule, reading Kafka in elementary school (“The Metamorphosis,” his mother said at the benefit) and becoming, at 11, the youngest student to enroll in Simon’s Rock, Bard College’s program for gifted high schoolers in Great Barrington, Mass.

At 15, he received a college degree from Bard, and at 16 was accepted to Yale Law School. At 21, he joined Mr. Holbrooke at the State Department, where he later became Hillary Rodham Clinton’s special adviser for global youth issues.

Feel bad about yourself yet? There’s more. In 2011, he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, for which he studied international relations at Oxford University. The scholarship marked the beginning of his drift back into the public eye, decades after his parents’ well-documented breakup. Though he had been hiding in plain sight, the world seemed stunned to discover that Woody Allen’s son had somehow turned into a fair-haired Übermensch, like the WASP rival in one of his father’s movies.


It's laugh-out-loud funny for the Times to assert seriously that Farrow hasn't ridden on the coattails of famous parents. Yes, and JFK Jr. was always puffed by the New York Times without any thought about his daddy:

His first year in New Haven, he took a class on international business transactions taught by Amy Chua, author of the child-rearing manifesto “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”

“I was told somehow that he was 16, but honestly I just quickly forgot about that,” Ms. Chua said. “He was incredibly precocious. I don’t think anybody noticed, which is amazing, because we have students at Yale Law School who are in their 30s and 40s.”

When the subject of his origins came up, he was reticent. “He has been almost adamant from the beginning about not ever riding on the coattails of either of his parents,” Ms. Chua said...

His pivot to broadcasting seems to signal a willingness to embrace his celebrity — on his terms. “This is just a moment where he is able to use his voice,” said [familyl friend Diane] Sawyer, who has advised him on the “the kind of layered people” he needs to support his fledgling TV career. “I’ve told him, ‘If there is anything you want to do that I have a cautionary tale about, I’ll be there.’ ”

The New York Times is piling up layers of something on Farrow.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis