Pity party: Suck it up, media
By: Roger Simon
September 4, 2012 03:03 PM EDT
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - - The press is sullen, disappointed, unamused.
We are being forced to cover a campaign that is beneath our standards.
This is the conclusion I have drawn from an excellent article written by POLITICO’s media reporter Dylan Byers. It was well-conceived, well-written, very thoughtful and it made me laugh out loud in several places.
It carried the headline: “Reporters: We loathe 2012 campaign.”
Hey, reporters, 2012 campaign loathes you back!
Here are some key quotations from the piece. But first let me stipulate that all are from distinguished journalists, 99 percent of them are my friends, and some of them are my close friends.
And I believe - - actually, I hope - - that they were chewing mushrooms when they said these things.
The reporters “lamented the devastating ‘joylessness’ of this campaign and “even the best political reporters want the whole thing over with.”
“Until the candidates restore joy, it’s impossible for us to be joyful,” said one.
“This is worse than normal, a lot less fun,” said another.
I have a few problems with these statements.
First and foremost - - and this is going to be a shock to some of my colleagues - - presidential campaigns are not conducted primarily for the amusement of the press, but to select a president of the United States.
(Also on POLITICO: Media: Obama is egotistical, selfish, dull)
The campaigns, therefore, have little responsibility to stimulate us or make our lives more fun. That is what movies-in-the-room are for.
I can see where the confusion comes from. We cover the political process as if it were entertainment. Look at the sets for the primary debates.
Some were so glitzy, gaudy and electronically blinding that they almost overshadowed the true purpose of the debates. I don’t mean edifying the public. I mean making sure our corporate logos were always visible in the background just over the candidates’ shoulders.
And today we demand our candidates be entertainers. We want them to speak in pithy, but nifty, quotes because pithy but nifty is what we care about. They have handlers and surrogates to emphasize their “human” side, because we would rather write about their human side than about their free-trade policies.
The press is also appalled by the negativity of this campaign. We want a campaign less nasty, less partisan, and more elevated.
Sure we do. We would much rather the whole campaign focus on energy, the environment and education so we can call the Professor of Advanced Thinking at the Institute for Advanced Thought and quote her.
The campaigns are too trivial? They are too negative?
You know what? I wouldn’t care if these guys decided the presidency by beating each other over the heads with socks full of sand. Or full of something. And you know why?
Because, as Adlai Stevenson said, “Your public servants serve you right.”
We have a “European Socialist” versus a “Robotic Plutocrat” running for president?
Hey, who nominated these guys? Who voted for them in the primaries? You did, Mr. and Ms. America.
Charles Anderson Oceander, a 19th century journalist who wrote about war, politics and other folly, often found himself covering depressing, degrading and even trivial events. He did not mind.
“I have always felt that whatever Divine Providence permitted to occur,” he said, “I was not too proud to report.”
Memo to press corps: Life is disappointing? Forget it! Here, life is beautiful! (Apologies to “Cabaret.”)
You don’t know how good you’ve got it. Tomorrow we all may be replaced with an algorithm.
I know this campaign has not been joyful. But name one that was. And, assuming anybody can actually find one, I doubt the press found it joyful at the time.
True, Theodore White, author of the “Making of the President” book series, was in love with writing about the process of politics. But of the four campaigns he wrote books about, which was the joyful one: Kennedy-Nixon (1960), Johnson-Goldwater (1964) [though that “Daisy” ad was a giggle, I admit], Nixon-Humphrey-Wallace (1968), or Nixon-McGovern (1972)?
Dylan Byers’ article did quote journalists correctly assessing how the Internet has changed reporting and not for the better. Some reporters now feel they must post half-baked stories out of fear they will be beaten by reporters posting quarter-baked stories.
We go around saying “we are all wire service reporters now” - - meaning we must file quickly around the clock - - but that is not true. Wire service stories were scrupulously reported before they went on the wire. The Associated Press became the gold standard for the quick, but fair and accurate, story.
Today, many of us are just quick. The need to write constantly about a campaign we find not very entertaining has depressed us.
But you know what? I don’t look for joy in political campaigns. Politics is not really a spiritual process. If you seek joy, find it in yourself.
And quit your whining. Really. You don’t know how good you’ve got it.
You can be the person in the back of the hire car on the way to your next TV interview, or you can be the person driving the hire car on the way to your next TV interview.
Wanna switch? Want to see if you can find a more joyful, purposeful and uplifting life in the real world?
Be my guest. Me, I am just going to suck it up and keep writing.
And I have some advice: You don’t like this campaign? Don’t worry. There will be another one to complain about in just four years.