Friday, March 26, 2010

"In which Goldy plays the AG’s office and the media"

David Goldstein:
I couldn’t make it down there myself, but I’m told a healthy media contingent showed up to watch the protesters drop off petitions at the Attorney General’s office, presumably on the off chance that there might be a little drama.
I’d say that was well played on my part, but, you know, one can only go to that particular well so many times.

When several thousand health care reform backers packed into Westlake Park last September the rally earned relatively little media coverage and absolutely zero ink in the Seattle Times. Yet when maybe a hundred or so Teabaggers gathered on a street corner to mark the anniversary of their so-called “movement,” the Times deemed that worthy of a reporter, a photographer and twenty column inches.

Why? Media bias, of course, though not necessarily of the kind you might think.

Yeah, sure, our media’s corporate owners are biased toward the right-wing agenda and away from ours, but outside of, say, Fox News and handful of other ridiculously partisan media outlets, that only explains a small part of the disproportionate coverage the Teabaggers have enjoyed. No, what the media is really institutionally biased toward is a good story. And the angry, crazy, froth-at-mouth Teabaggers are nothing if not a good story.

Peacefully dropping off a bunch of petitions on the other hand, not so much… not at least unless you’re Tim Eyman prancing about in a rented costume, and spouting off his usual anti-tax/anti-government sound bites. But up the ante a little — provoke the AG’s office into ordering a lockdown, for example — and voila… three TV cameras show up. You know, just in case.

Am I proud that it took turning up the angry rhetoric a couple notches to spark some attention? Not particularly, but neither am I ashamed. I’ve been at this too long not to know how this game is played.

In my emails today with AG communications director Janelle Guthrie, she wrote: “It doesn’t have to be as ugly and contentious as you seem to like to make it. Reasonable people can have reasonable discussions.”

Yeah, well, reasonable people can have reasonable discussions, but apparently, if you want the media to pay attention, it does unfortunately have to be a little ugly and contentious. After all, my long time readers know that at my core, I’m a policy wonk who often digresses into lengthy, technical policy discussions, only to be completely ignored by the legacy press. But break a bit of dirty muckraking — or vaguely threaten to vaguely threaten a public disturbance — and that catches the media’s attention.

I’m a smart critic, an entertaining writer and a damn fine analyst with long track record of getting stuff right, but honestly, I know what my main role is: publicly saying the things respectable folk wish they could publicly say, if they weren’t so cautious and polite. That’s why folks read me, because I’m willing to call a spade a fuckin’ spade. And there’s something naturally cathartic in that.

But like I said, one can only go to that particular well so many times before it runs dry, and if I’m the only person around here expressing any real emotion, the media will continue to largely ignore our side of the story while heaping outsized coverage on the handful of loud, angry wingnuts across the street.

And for those in the media who take issue with my assessment of what it takes to manipulate you, well, actions speak louder than words. (Or at least, actions would speak louder than words, if only there was anybody around to report on them.)

No comments: