16 June 2009

Prescription for the Media

ABC News announced today that on June 24, the network will turn its programming over to President Obama and White House officials to push government run health care. As capstone to the move, ABC News anchor, Charlie Gibson will deliver World News Tonight from the Blue Room of the White House. The network will also air a prime time special, "Prescription for America," originating from the East Room of the White House. Good Morning America will originate from inside 1600 Pennsylvania that day, as well.
Checking around the Internet, the words "whore" and "prostitute" are coming up in the google searches on the subject.

I'm betting that those words were also in play during the days and weeks leading up to NBC's two-part special, "Inside the White House." The specials, which aired in early June, were part of a long tradition at NBC, but this time, the network's main anchor, Brian Williams said they would,
"show aspects of life in the White House — the Obama White House — that no one on the outside has ever seen before."
In other words, they followed President Barack Obama around like a puppy until shooed away by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

While I do think the prostitution references are a bit harsh and overdone, the whole thing feels wrong. We should we keep ourselves a respectable, professional distance. And when will the pandering and sucking up will end? By now, shouldn't the whole "honeymoon with the media" thing be over? This is the national media we are talking about. These are people paid to critically examine and present both sides of issues. They're expected to be the barking dogs of our government and people. They need to start sniffing around again.

The Republican National Committee thinks it's unseemly. (That's a literary tool called understatement.) They wrote to David Westin, President of the network to protest the airing of what they called an "infomercial" on the administration's health care reform proposal.

Mr. Westin didn't answer back, but a Senior Vice President at the network did, offering:

"I hope we can all agree that a robust debate of health care issues and potential policies is in order. ABC News prides itself on covering all sides of important issues and asking direct questions of all news makers -- of all political persuasions -- even when others have taken a more partisan approach and even in the face of criticism from extremes on both ends of the political spectrum. In the end, no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions."
A robust debate? I may be wrong, but I don't go into someone's own house to criticize them. I just don't. In this case, I might do it out on the lawn, from the same neighborhood, in a room in a hotel across from Lafayette Park or other nearby location. And I have. But I don't do that in their living room. Or their East Room.
I like my politics with two parties. I do. I like to listen to both sides. I also shut both out equally. The funny thing is that the people "back home" conclude that I'm very liberal while the people I work with seem to think I'm kinda (to put it mildly) conservative. The fact that I'm offensive to both sensibilities implies to my mind that I might be doing something right. They did tell us in journalism 101 to expect to be disliked. By that standard, I've succeeded.
So here I am, watching first NBC News and now ABC News go before the current administration, hat in hand, asking to be allowed up close to cover a President whose approval ratings are through the roof. As if they want a little of his lustrous popularity to rub off on them.
A Senator from my home state in the West once hugged me on the White House lawn. It was a sickly squeamish woman that faced the cameras soon after.
Someone needs to remind them that we aren't in it to buddy up with someone so that the other kids like us, too. This isn't kindergarten. It's not even high school. But if we were to use that metaphor, we cheered when he entered the field, but now it's time for us to go sit in the stands and leave the quarterback alone so he can do his job.
We're not players. Not really. We're not cheerleaders. Although looking around Los Angeles television sometimes, I can see where some might get that idea. But no, the cheerleaders are on the front row in their short skirts.
Our profession doesn't get sunshine blown up its skirts. We aren't on the field to play, and we do not take orders from the quarterback. This is what we're supposed to do: go sit in the stands and call the game. We're onlookers by nature, with a lofty perch. We need to go sit in our cheap seats and our ivory towers and remember that the reason we are (occasionally) looked up to is because we set ourselves apart.
Someone also ought to point out to the brain trusts that are making these decisions that Mr. Obama's numbers are showing weakness. And that when the scandals come, which they inevitably will (I'm not saying his people are corrupt, but when was the last scandal-free administration? Was there ever one?) do you really want to have your people so close to the line of the fire? The potential for disaster is huge there.
So I say, "Out! Out! Out of that White House." We need to quit acting like lapdogs and go back to barking.

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