The America's Cup yacht races on a Trinitron screen did not draw overflow crowds to San Francisco's Marina Green on Monday.
If a TV personality tells an American audience that something terrible happened in the Middle East and then runs a sound byte of a Republican saying that it's an abomination and is entirely Obama's fault and follows it with a quote of a Democrat saying the Middle East is in shambles but it isn't all Obama's fault, the rubes think that's an outstanding example of fair and balanced journalism. Then they tune into a long and convoluted analysis of the implications of a personnel change on a base baseball or football team and can later give a verbatim report on what was said and state eloquently why they disagree with the expert commentary. Are sports more important than politics?
If a newspaper reporter who has been covering the Dodgers for years is suddenly traded to a San Francisco newspaper (for an undisclosed amount of cash and a draft pick?) most fans expect that the wordsmith will have a St. Paul's moment and suddenly be rooting for the Giants. If he doesn't woe betide him who tries to keep his previous enthusiasm for the despicable rivals from "shaky town." It wouldn't take long for a ME (managing editor) to tell such a traitor to hit the showers.
Genuine enthusiasm is vastly different from spin. If, hypothetically, a veteran travel writer were given a lucrative writing assignment to go to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and make it sound like a panacea for anyone suffering from traveler's ennui it would be a challenging opportunity. If, however, an alert writer went to the remote destination in Western Australia and had a delightful experience because it catered to his distinctive personality, then he would have to caution readers that they might not share the stamp of approval that he gave to the area that exemplifies the advice that if you love Sacramento, California, then you can reasonably expect that it might be worthwhile to head for the hometown where Skimpy's Bar is located.
When we were in Fremantle, Western Australia, the young people in the hostel where we were staying were very strong in their recommendation that we take a train excursion to Kalgoorlie, so we did. When we arrived, we noticed that they might have been playing a practical joke with the expectation that we would be disappointed by the result, but the joke was on them because the World's Laziest Journalist has, since the time we first viewed "Treasure of the Sierra Madre," been fascinated with the topic of gold prospecting. Not everybody will be wowed by a chance to visit the Prospectors' Hall of Fame, but for a Fred C. Dobbs wannabe, it is an exhilarating travel experience.
Could a writer who lays on extravagant praise for a very specialized destination be considered a practical joker like the kids in Fremantle or would he actually be something worse? Is travel information more important than politics?
Does that mean that liberals should view George W. Bush's forever war as the payoff for some political journalism done by practical jokers?
If a columnist were to be invited to some very exclusive parties held in conjunction with an event being held in San Francisco and were to get some very humorous quotes and some celebrity gossip scoops, it would be prudent to expect him to heap lavish praise on the vent itself, wouldn't it?
If however, a writer were to go to the event venue and mix with the general public and come away with a lack of enthusiasm, could it be time to cue the "sour grapes" cliche?
When Sgt. Bill Mauldin was ordered to go to New York City, as WWII was entering its final phase, he was given "celebrity" travel priority which was equal to that level of importance usually accorded to someone with the rank of brigadier general or higher. On the flight from Europe to the Big Apple the sergeant sat with the enlisted men and played cards rather than hobnobbing with the brass. Ernie Pyle was at home eating K rations in a foxhole.
Would a columnist who has attended the Oscar - ceremony, flown in the Goodyear blimp, and been to the Playboy Mansion be expected to be able to give the aforementioned generic event in San Francisco a fair evaluation if he observed the proceedings with the regular citizens?
These days nationally known journalists expect to be given celebrity status and the tradition of going on the road to take the pulse of the nation seems to be an extinct method of reporting. Someone who has the profile of a brigadier general has very little chance of operating in the "fly on the wall" mode of operation.
Can you honestly imagine a Fox personality going into a workers bar and listening to the locals complain about how things are today? Would Scott Pele be able to function as a "fly on the wall" or would he cause a sensation if he walked into a neighborhood bar in San Francisco?
Have the opinions of the man in the street evaporated completely as a factor for evaluating newsworthyness? That could explain why politicians now seem to completely disregard what the voters want when they are making decisions which will profit the companies run by the fellows who also make large reelection campaign donations. When counterfeit journalism can be palmed off on the suckers as fair and balanced analysis, the country that tolerates such a masquerade is in deep trouble.
Is it time to write a column comparing and contrasting the state of the art for journalism in the USA today with how it was in Germany in 1937?
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