The term is “Media Whore.” It’s used in my business to describe those who will do anything to get on camera, say whatever needs to be said and insinuate themselves into the story of the day. They crave attention, for fame or money or both. You’ve seen them…pundits being the obvious sub-species of this city’s most indigenous of creatures. I think I left here back in 2002 when I realized I had to evolve into one of them, like some two-bit extra from the Island of Doctor Moreau. Otherwise, I couldn’t be in the zoo.
Some of us “insiders” also refer to the reporters, talking heads and “journalists” who populate our proliferate channels as media whores. They shamelessly use “cut-aways” of themselves reacting to the interviewee in front of them, making their well-glossed, gently nodding faces part of the story. They cultivate access–at dinner parties and press conferences and other well-heeled events. Access translates into official sources…the big names and bloated tag lines in the story that highlight the journalists’ bylines or the screen credits that roll their careers and bankroll their comfy lives.
The success of the Daily Show is built upon that never-ending joke, that the media is itself the story and the way they “report” the news is so arrogant, so totally off the story that it makes us laugh to see comedians doing it so smoothly and without an ounce of remorse. The sad part is that the Daily Show is the straight man, and the real news is the punchline.
Since the first term of this Presidency, the media whores have become high-priced call girls. They get calls from the official sources and spread open for story of the day. Hard questions…particularly about wars, terrorism, energy policy and the environment, or about obvious corruption and lies…do not get asked. Or, if they do, it’s only to “put it out there” to be knocked down. White House sources deny, Pentagon sources deny…how many times have you heard or read those words after what might be a startling revelation? Once denied, the investigation stops. Because journalism is now just access. No need to investigate.
Those who question and gumshoe their way to the truth go to Britain, or the alternative press, or start their own websites. Mainstreamers, though, love access. Access shows their importance. They get to hang out in the White House, or the Pentagon, or the glittering studios around town. They get calls from important people. They get their pictures taken with the people they cover, collecting banal souvenirs that mark their own sense of importance over time. I’ve seen it…in real time and displayed historically around the offices of many a “journalist.”
Of course, many will deny this. They have to. Because the ghost of Edward R. Murrow does haunt us, because Woodward and Bernstein became big stars, because Iran-Contra did get past the perception management of the Reagan-Bush team. The media whores, though, got Monica and the big, career-making investigation chased the ghost of journalism past. Whether or not Monica was about anything, what it did was elevate the media whore…the babbling head put in front of a camera to play ping-pong with an opponent, to bloviate about he saids and she saids, to fill the air with fireless smoke blown right up our collective asses. Many became stars because of Monica. Fox News was built on it. It turned journalism into a cash cow.
There were ignored stories during that period. Scandals that could’ve been. Now, we see that come to full bloom, as one scandal after another just tip-toes by us. Plamegate, and the persistence of Karl Rove is a case in point. Judith Miller, a shill who has been exposed for the book “Germs,” who wrote agitprop about Saddam back in the lead up to the first Gulf War…she’s a First Amendment hero and prime example of the dark side of access. Bob Novak, still skulking around in his column, lost his head a bit, but not his access. His access was Rove’s tool…to try to blow by the falseness of the Admin’s Iraq War case. And where has the media been? Reporters? They’ve been cowards. They been enjoying the kinda of access that Jeff Gannon got. And they’re doing the same sort of journalism.
The Daily Show is quite popular among the media whores in this city. It’s a relief to laugh at the absurdity of it all, to point fingers at the other guy with a knowing chuckle or an accusatory guffaw. If you love the Daily Show and work in the media, you are “in” on the big joke and somehow above it all. But the media whores here are so lacking in self-awareness, so lacking in self-reflection…that they don’t even realize that they are laughing at themselves. Now they go on the show and seek some sort of comic dispensation from Jon Stewart. I hope Murrow’s ghost is laughing.
What’s worse, is that access has made them accessories…to a laundry list of things gone wrong, of plans unfurled and bank accounts padded. That’s the real crime.Tweet