Profiles In Journalistic Courage: Marlow Stern of the Daily Beast

One of the bravest, most trail-blazing journalists alive today is undoubtedly Marlow Stern, a Senior Editor at the Daily Beast. Because his staggering contributions to the field have so far yet to be fully recognized and appreciated, this Substack post aims to remedy that injustice. Marlow also loves offering up his own takes on how to properly conceptualize the value of true journalistic work — so now more than ever, it is crucial to highlight his accomplishments as a shining example for aspiring online media workers to emulate.

A meticulous quantitative analysis of all the Daily Beast posts published under the byline “Marlow Stern” thus far in calendar year 2021 (as of Tuesday, April 6) reveals that of the 80 posts which have appeared since January 1, at least 39 are just straightforward aggregations of clips from comedy TV shows. Specifically, comedy TV shows that Marlow clearly finds So. Important. for their biting commentary on the hottest political and cultural issues of the day:

Admittedly, this tabulation of posts does not capture the whole scope of Marlow’s work; it leaves out bombshells such as an aggregation of Seth Rogen tweets roasting Ted Cruz, with some additional pithy remarks by Marlow appended. But it’s in his consistently intense focus on TV show summaries that Marlow’s journalistic acumen really shines through. In October of 2020 for instance — the month before the culmination of a heated presidential election — 18 of Marlow’s 26 posts (69%) were sizzling aggregations of TV show clips.

How the Daily Beast readership would ever be able to survive without the summarizations Marlow exclusively writes alongside each of these clips, it’s impossible to say. Consider the vast effort Marlow must marshal in the production of such posts. Pause and contemplate the magnitude of the commitment required for him to transcribe all the most hilarious quotes from the clips he collects — just in case Daily Beast website visitors want to both watch the clip and read his sassy recap for some reason. The sense of purpose and dedication necessary to perform these heroic feats of transcription is only part of what inspires such loyal admiration for Marlow across the online media industry:

If you’re wondering why a person who self-identifies as a Senior Editor is spending so much time watching TV shows, writing up brief summaries of segments from those TV shows, and then posting clips of the shows on the Daily Beast website, your conception of what it means to be a “Senior Editor” at a major national publication might be a bit out of date. Please Do Better. 

To take just one recent example of a hard day’s work, it would be a grievous erasure of Marlow’s lived experience and sacrifice to not honor what he bequeathed to the world on April 4. Three cheeky little TV show aggregation items appeared under his byline on that day alone — two hot Saturday Night Live clips, and one extra hot Last Week Tonight with John Oliver clip. Let That Sink In: three TV show aggregation posts in one day. Just, wow. If the bravery evinced by this sort of posting regimen doesn’t leave you breathless, you really need to re-evaluate your life choices! It’s no wonder online journalists are now so passionate about centering their trauma; welders and commercial fishermen can’t even begin to fathom this kind of back-breaking labor.

Quick disclaimer: Should you seek to bask in the totality of Marlow’s stunning journalistic achievements, you may have to purchase a Daily Beast “membership” to get around the paywall. One can hardly think of a more deserving recipient for your hard-earned money. You won’t want to run the risk of being impeded in your ability to access prize-worthy Marlow posts like Why Jemele Hill Believes You’re a ‘Racist’ If You Vote Trump and Stephen Colbert Delivers Emotional Plea for Joe Biden. So please, do your civic duty and subscribe to the Daily Beast, or else they might have to spend some time introspecting about why people have no interest in paying for this shit, which could be highly traumatizing for them. 

A proud graduate of the prestigious Columbia Journalism School — which he continues to tout on his Daily Beast and Twitter bios twelve years after matriculating — Marlow Stern is typical of many online media industry workers for having been the beneficiary of an astronomically expensive private education. The current estimated total price tag for a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University is $116,899. According to his LinkedIn page, Marlow also attended Colby College, a private liberal arts college in Maine — the current total yearly cost of which is $76,425. For insight into the broken psyche of this clique of content-producers, just imagine obtaining such an astronomically expensive private education and still writing up three late-night TV clips per day for the Daily Beast in your mid-to-late 30s. It’s hard not to summon some empathy for anyone who finds themselves in this predicament — or at least gain a better understanding of their constant ironically-detached tweets, with all the barely concealed self-loathing. “Lol.”

Perhaps one day Columbia Journalism School will invite Marlow back to campus as one of its most distinguished alumni, so he can instruct graduate students shelling out ~$120K on subjects like the best snarky “tags” to slap on Daily Beast posts. Some of Marlow’s favorites include “YIKES.” It’s a no-brainer that Columbia’s institutional pedagogy would benefit enormously from cultivating a greater knowledge of how he has perfected this craft.

For now, we can only speculate about the secrets of Marlow’s success in attaining these soaring journalistic heights. There are, however, a few clues available in the public record: WikiLeaks helpfully archives an inquisitive email sent by Marlow in 2014 to a PR handler employed by Sony Entertainment. In the email, Marlow professes himself a “big fan” of then-Sony CEO Michael Lynton, and conveys his hope that Lynton would set aside some time to “hop on the phone” with him for a forthcoming article. Marlow cites Lynton’s purported friendship with his mother, Irena Choi Stern, as an added enticement.

According to her LinkedIn page, Irena Choi Stern worked as Assistant Dean for Alumni Relations at Columbia Journalism School between 2004 and 2014. By sheer and total happenstance, her son Marlow attended the School from 2009 - 2010, and began really making his name in the online media industry shortly thereafter. All during the time when his Mom’s stated job duties at the School included “oversee and manage all alumni outreach strategy and operations” as well as “identify and cultivate development prospects.” So one thing is clear: if anyone embodies an up-by-your-bootstraps tale of personal ingenuity and meritocratic excellence, it’s Marlow.

The urgent questions Marlow had for the Sony CEO concerned such pressing matters as, “Why do you think there’s a lack of diversity in superhero movies, and do you see it improving?” and “What’s preventing a female superhero toplining a film from happening?” You can understand why he pulled out all the stops to get this scoop. Most of the journalism out there nowadays won’t stand the test of time, but the intrepid reportage of Marlow Stern will surely be read about in history books and referenced in journalism instruction texts — just like the ones that taught Marlow the tools of the trade at Columbia.

Because I am a strong believer in journalistic ethics (despite lacking a Master’s Degree in Journalism Studies) I made sure to provide Marlow with ample time to respond to this Substack post — namely, for him to address my allegation that the vast majority of his journalistic output is worthless garbage. Given that he’s so savvily in tune with all the latest media Twitter inside joke humor, Marlow made sure to promptly tweet the email I sent him. Which was great — I welcome Marlow using his singularly powerful platform to generate interest and anticipation for this post, seeing as it may be the most thorough assessment of his career to date. Here’s the on-record quote he authorized me to include: “This seems like a very valuable use of your time. Good luck.”

I deeply appreciate the well-wishes. But if you’re reading this, Marlow — if you could spare enough time in between toggling back-and-forth from whatever video-capture service you use and the Daily Beast CMS — I’d really just like to say good luck to you in your future groundbreaking journalistic endeavors. Because as has hopefully been demonstrated herein, what you do is truly Soooooooo Important. Society would instantly collapse without your indispensable contributions to our collective public understanding. So please keep it up, Marlow. Those quirky irreverent clips of Samantha Bee absolutely UNLOADING on Donald Trump Jr. won’t aggregate themselves.


UPDATE 4/7/2021 9:30pm:

Marlow Stern has written me an email demanding that I “issue a correction of some sort.” He writes, “The clear implication in your piece is that I do not assume the traditional duties of a senior editor.” I am more than happy to clarify that Marlow does in fact fulfill manifold “duties” as a Senior Editor at the Daily Beast, on top of his duty to produce a steady churn of sassy late-night TV show recaps.