Saturday, February 04, 2006

Incest Within The Press

DUNCAN SPENCER, THE HILL - The death-by-negligence of New York Times editor David Rosenbaum [is] a perfect example of the ugly layers of Washington society, and particularly the structure of the high court of the new dukes and duchesses of that society, news reporters. Can one imagine the same case (elderly man clobbered and robbed of his wallet and cards by two thugs) happening in Wards 7 or 8, where the victim would almost surely have been black? The case would never have gotten beyond The Washington Post's "Metro Briefs" and would have ended there.

But several layers of our unexamined and uncriticized social gradation separated Rosenbaum from the Ward 7 and 8 man. Rosenbaum was white. He was sober. He was walking in a Far Northwest neighborhood considered safe (i.e., almost all white). And he was a news reporter. Not only a news reporter but associated with the country's only national daily, the Times.

It was this combination of social factors that triggered a deluge from the press corps (or better, the Press Court) to include high indignation from such luminaries as Maureen Dowd, John Tierney (both NYT), Marc Fisher and Cokie Roberts, to mention only the best known of the indignant. . .

The memorial service on the 13th was little less than a press royal occasion, homage being paid not only by those who knew the decedent but by those who wanted to be known as having known him, as well as by those most public senators, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Eulogist NYT bureau chief Philip Taubman called the crime "unfathomable, unthinkable, unspeakable." Of course he was referring only to one (his own) social layer - in another part of town . . . such a crime would not only be fathomable, thinkable and speakable but an all-too-frequent experience. But the victim almost certainly would not have been a New York Times reporter. . .

This town's media elite regard themselves as eminently important and amusing, while the public, ever yearning for a new example of that financial, social magic called celebrity, has eagerly embraced regular news columns on the media, the press reporting on itself. Regularly scheduled media columns ensure that stories are not written to report news but are written under the oldest whip in our business - finding something to fill that hole. What's easier than another column about news royalty?. . .

As the press ascends to the level of social godhead, perhaps each scribbler should reread at least once a week Janet Malcolm's shocking confession: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse."

Too strong? Then read Washington Examiner writer Karen DeWitt: "I became a reporter like many in my generation, because I wanted to shine a light on wrongs and stand up for the little guy against the powerful." The Press Court is now the powerful. It stands up not for the little guy but for its own.

Article From The Hill...
(scroll down to "Hacks favorite subject:themselves")

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