Snarky Behavior

What Makes a Scandal

April 15, 2008 · 1 Comment

Ezra Klein brings up a point that all journalists and bloggers alike should be cognizant of:  how to determine when a scandal “matters”:

The impulse, of course, is to follow each newstory as if its salience in the news cycle corresponded to its actual importance in the campaign. But that’s rarely the case. Time passes, comments are forgotten, new gaffes are made, and the election spins on.

Klein continues the post by discussing what particular features of a scandal tend to give the story “legs.”  Those features might be valid empirical observations to make, but it bothers me that they are of primary concern to a blogger at The American Prospect.

Now, I give Klein a lot of credit because he writes about what he is passionate and knowledgeable about (health care policy),  despite the fact that those posts presumably get far less click-throughs than the “hot” topics.  He is afforded the luxury of not having to write in feedback mechanisms, where audience response dictates the editorial direction of his content and analysis, precisely because he is not part of a “mainstream media” operation.

I also understand that a journalist, and especially a blogger, who digs his heels in the sand and plays the Lorax for any given issue (THIS IS IMPORTANT, DAMN IT!) is not long for this world.  People will move on to get their current events from someone who isn’t a one trick pony.

At the same time– and this really, really concerns me about the disconnect between an engaged citizenry and a “newsertainment” media– some stories (and scandals) that are important (in orders of magnitude greater than Bob Dole falling down stairs) are inevitably going to lack the grainy video or convenient sound byte required to stimulate peoples’ senses.  And that’s why we have an independent media (like TAP), to give those events the intention they deserve, to fall out of the lock-step of the mainstream press before the next cycle buries them.

To be honest, the reason I’m in a huff about this is because I just listened to an All Things Considered about a municipality in rural Alabama that floated extremely risky muni-bonds to cover a sewage system, and now is some $4 billion dollars in debt! That’s over $6,000 per person (and probably twice that per tax-payer)!  Anyway, at one point in the podcast, they interview a local journalist, who admitted to writing close to 100 articles on this issue, and he says something like:

“People keep telling me to stop writing about this.  They say, “can’t you write about something else?  This is boring!”"

Sometimes you have to hit people over the head to make them KNOW when a scandal is important.

Categories: Uncategorized
Tagged: , , ,

1 response so far ↓

  • Joe // May 1, 2008 at 4:55 am | Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. The omnipresence of Natalie Holloway a short while back (and even, to some extent, ’scandals’ involving those who publicized her disappearance, like Bill O’Reilly and his ‘falafel, which was hilarious) shows how little the news really takes on events which matter, in the craven search for ratings. Sadly, we – in the broad, not royal use of the word – are to blame for this. If only extraordinary rendition had the sexiness to keep it in the news like a blonde white girl. Oh wait, it does. Why couldn’t someone just think of an easier, sexier way of saying it? Like, ‘Torture Planes,’ or ‘Kill Jets.’ Then the story would have legs.

Leave a Comment