A media trifecta

    Everybody has some kind of beef with the media. Here’s one of mine:The Wisconsin standoff, pitting the new conservative governor against the public unions, has raged for three weeks.

    The story has naturally surfaced on the top four Sunday shows – ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation, and Fox News Sunday. But on three successive Sundays, take a guess how many times those four shows have booked labor leaders.A grand total of once. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka appeared yesterday on a Meet the Press panel.In other words, not once have any of those shows booked any of the Wisconsin union leaders who happen to be major players in an ongoing national news story. The labor perspective on Wisconsin would not necessarily persuade most viewers, but at minimum it would certainly broaden the typically narrowcasted Sunday dialogue – which has been dominated, as it was again yesterday, by Gov. David Walker and others on the Republican side.This de facto union lockout is easily explainable. As tough as it is to generalize about “the media,” it’s nevertheless a fact that journalists rarely solicit opinions from organized labor. As a Pew Research Center report discovered two years ago, after studying press coverage of the Great Recession, union officials were cited as sources in only two percent of the economic stories.Why is that? Because most contemporary journalists have very little contact with union people or the union sensibility. The Washington press corps and the Washington Sunday show honchos, in particular, are highly educated and upper middle class; their world is far removed from the everyday lives of most union members. As the late Richard Harwood, ombudsman at The Washington Post, once remarked, today’s journalists “derive their world views, mindsets, and biases from their peers. Their work is shaped to suit the tastes and needs of the new upper class….The mainstream media is staking its future on this class because it’s going increasingly upscale…and rejecting or losing working people.”This is truly a shame – especially given the landslide public support for collecting bargaining rights, as reported in the latest Gallup poll (which I mentioned in my Sunday newspaper column). One would think that the Sunday shows would benefit from a strong labor perspective, if only as a counterpoint to the Republican talking heads. If nothing else, that strikes me as rational new judgment. Contrary to the conservative canard about “liberal bias” in the press, it’s far more accurate to fault the press for class bias. And that’s what we have seen, these last three Sundays.——-Speaking of journalism, Sarah Palin offered this remark earlier this month in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network: “I have a journalism degree….I understand that this cornerstone of democracy is a free press, is sound journalism.”But it turns out that her definition of “sound journalism” is a tad unusual, at least by most people’s standards. According to the leaked book manuscript of Palin aide Frank Bailey (who has authored a tell-all entitled In Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years), she had a creative way of practicing soundness while running for governor of Alaska.Alaska newspapers received a flurry of letters to the editor in which average citizens heaped praise on Palin. Turns out, however, that the average citizens whose names appeared beneath those letters didn’t actually write those letters. The real author of those letters was Palin. She was heaping praise on herself, and farming out the authorship to others.In an email to Bailey, she worked out the terms of the fakery: “Guys – let’s remember to tell people that, when they offer to help but don’t know what to do, they can loan us their names for a letter, and they have to be ready to confirm that they authored the letter when all those various newspapers call them for confirmation.”Here’s an excerpt from one Palin-authored letter: “It’s been a pleasure watching our life-long Alaskan gal, Sarah Palin, campaign for governor these past six months. I am impressed with her leadership skills, experience, ethics, and energy….”Her “ethics?” Back in my own college days, I must have missed the course about how “sound journalism” and fakery were one and the same.——-Speaking of fakery, it was a kick to read the divorce statements that were circulated on Friday by Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer. You probably never watched Parker Spitzer on CNN (hey, who did?); nevertheless, I’ll translate the statements about the show’s demise.Spitzer said he wished Parker “all the best” and said it has been a “joy” to work with her: “I continue to be a huge fan of the wisdom that jumps from her written work, and the wit, charm and insight she brings to all that she does.”Translation: “I was the governor of New York, for Pete’s sake, and she was just some pissant writer, she didn’t belong in the same studio with the likes of me, so good riddance that she’s going back to scribbling. And frankly, she’s pushing 60, and even though they put her in a hot leather jacket, she just wasn’t my type.”Parker said, “I have decided to return to a schedule that will allow me to focus more on my syndicated newspaper column and other writings. While I am extremely proud of the show we created, and the subject matter and level of discourse Parker Spitzer promoted every night, it was a difficult decision to scale back my column a few months ago and, with the show going in a new direction, it is a good time to move on.”Translation: “Notice that in my statement I never offered a single word of praise for Client 9. I’m thrilled to be returning to my regular column schedule, far away from that Type A sleazebag, his incessant bullying, and his pitiful image rehab. I look forward to watching him plunge even further in the ratings.”


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