The Doc Searls Weblog : Tuesday, March 8, 2005
Doc quoting Frank:
Anyway, this all comes to mind after reading Frank Rich's latest column (ran Sunday in the New York Times and at other times elsewhere). Some good stuff there:
What's missing from News in the United States is the news. On ABC, Peter Jennings devotes two hours of prime time to playing peek-a-boo with UFO fanatics, a whorish stunt crafted to deliver ratings, not information. On NBC, Brian Williams is busy as all get-out, as every promo reminds us, "Reporting America's Story." That story just happens to be the relentless branding of Brian Williams as America's anchorman - a guy just too in love with Folks Like Us to waste his time looking closely at, say, anything happening in Washington.
Hunter Thompson did not do investigative reporting, but he would have had a savage take on our news-free world - not least because it resembles his own during the Nixon era, before he had calcified into the self-parodistic pop culture cartoon immortalized by Garry Trudeau, Bill Murray, Johnny Depp and most of his eulogists. Read "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72" - the chronicle of his Rolling Stone election coverage - and you find that his diagnosis of journalistic dysfunction hasn't aged a day: "The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of political journalism in America has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists." He cites as a classic example the breathless but belated revelations of the mental history of George McGovern's putative running mate, the Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton - a story that had long been known by "half of the political journalists in St. Louis and at least a dozen in the Washington press corps." This same clubby pack would be even tardier on Watergate, a distasteful assignment left to a pair of lowly police-beat hacks at The Washington Post.
I'm thinking right on. Then there's this:
Thompson was out to break the mainstream media's rules. His unruly mix of fact, opinion and masturbatory self-regard may have made him a blogger before there was an Internet, but he was a blogger who had the zeal to leave home and report firsthand and who could write great sentences that made you want to savor what he found out rather than just scroll quickly through screen after screen of minutiae and rant. When almost all "the Wizards, Gurus and Gentlemen Journalists in Washington" were predicting an unimpeded victory march for Edmund Muskie to the Democratic presidential nomination, it was Thompson who sniffed out the Muskie campaign's "smell of death" and made it stick. The purported front-runner, he wrote, "talked like a farmer with terminal cancer trying to borrow money on next year's crop."