Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yes. Like a top. Why do you ask?

Mind if we suggest that it would have been all right to think through the play of this action-packed 1A story a little more thoroughly? And that a perfectly reasonable decision would have been "nah, three grafs inside and kill the art"?

If you missed this one, or if you're one of the unlucky few for whom news judgment doesn't begin and end with what "dominated cable television Monday," or if you'd managed to forget about the whole thing by Tuesday morning, the "angry congressman" is Bob Etheridge of the N.C. 2nd District, and he's grabbing an, um, interviewer. So, at least, we're told.

Here's a bit of transcript accompanying the story:

Man 1: Hi, Congressman!
Etheridge: How are you?
Man 1: How are you?
(Etheridge walks by)
Message on screen: What happens when a US Representative meets a college kid on the street in Washington?
Man 1: (holds small camera a few inches from Etheridge's face) Do you ...
Etheridge: Who are you?
Man 1: ... fully support the Obama agenda?
Etheridge: Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? (Video shows Etheridge's face filling the frame)
The video camera gets knocked away and Etheridge grabs the man his wrist.
Man 1: Whoa.
Message on screen: He goes BERSERK!

Who are Man 2 and Man 1? We don't know, and neither (allegedly) do the heroes of modern journalism at the Breitbart empire who loosed this on the world, because the video was apparently sent in on condition of anonymity. But the recipients at least seem quite clear about their purpose:

It is going to be a long, hot summer. But, you’ve been shown a politician who can be beaten this November. Act accordingly.

How'd they do? Perhaps McClatchy will tell us!

[Renee] Ellmers, Etheridge's Republican opponent, had received cash from hundreds of supporters in California, Wisconsin, Georgia and other states by late afternoon.

Now. Granted, grownups in public life are supposed to have a pretty good handle on their tempers, and Old Bob fell spectacularly short. For Ben Smith at the Politico, a video recording of such an epic fail is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know:

Big Government, then, did more or less the same thing that I did, and that dozens of other bloggers did, in posting the video on the strength of its content. A reasonable decision given that it's very hard to imagine a context in which Etheridge's actions would be acceptable, but one which does cede a fair amount of control to the guys who shot and edited the video.

Somebody has a very limited imagination. I'd rather not hand over my front page -- which is more than "a fair amount of control" -- to people who purportedly aren't even known to the loonies who allegedly didn't hire them, at least until some of the routine qualms that occur to my pedestrian brain are satisfied. (Nor is it unreasonable to infer from this that Ben Smith is a tool.)

Generally, when we go to sleep dreaming of news judgment, it's in the positive sense. Judgment is about something we run: that's the press, baby, and there's nothing you can do about it. Worth all the enraged phone calls and canceled subscriptions, right? Same's actually true of stories you don't run. Today's bottom line is that the mendacious, morally vacant sleazebags who brought you the ACORN tapes have now figured out how to get their first-day story on the front. Wouldn't it have been fun to be the editor who looked at that, decided it was a crock and put it on the spike? Let's revisit this in five months or so and see what it looks like.

So, cousins at the Obs (and the N&O, which played the same tune, only turned up to 11): You were spun. Like a stack of plates on the Ed Sullivan show. With a bilingual cloth rat looking on. Please try to do better in the future.



Blogger Alec said...

But did he call the interviewer attractive?


There's footage out there of Kate Adie having a psychotic episode and *completely* terrifying an interviewer.

12:20 PM, June 16, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Topo Gigio is NOT a rat.

9:17 PM, June 17, 2010  

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