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High School All Over Again

Posted on May 10, 2012
AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari

President Barack Obama high-fives late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel as Caren Bohan, a Reuters journalist and the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, looks on.

By Bill Boyarsky

Washington journalism is like high school. It has the same cool kids, mean girls, social rankings and the big prom—the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner. But unlike what happens in high school, the insular behavior of the Washington media affects the whole nation.

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The voice of the cool kids is Mike Allen’s Playbook column on the Politico website, emailed early each morning to addicted readers such as me. The column, interestingly, is titled “POLITICO Playbook, presented by the American Petroleum Institute.” It is a mixture of breaking news, plugs for books by Washington A-list writers and a detailed recitation of weddings, births, job changes, dinner dates, vacations and birthdays of those hot enough to attract Mike’s notice.

Halfway through the column is a word from the apparent sponsor. On Monday, it was: “A message from the American Petroleum Institute: Americans from all walks of life are becoming energy voters. They know America needs more energy from all sources—including domestic oil and natural gas—to create jobs and get our economy moving.”

For those who missed it, the message was repeated at the end.

As someone who labored through the social maze of high school, I can only pity those whose wedding or birthday don’t make Mike’s column. But it gets worse. The mean girls weigh in at Fishbowl DC, a column at the Mediabistro website. Fishbowl sarcastically names those who have fallen from grace or never made it. Then it hounds them, sometimes for days or weeks at a time.


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Then there is the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where the journalists mingle with their guests, many of them Hollywood celebrities. The guest list becomes more famous every year.

On Monday, I scrolled through The Washington Post website’s coverage of the parties held after the dinner. This is how The Post led off its display of images: “At the 2012 MSNBC and Bloomberg/Vanity Fair after-parties, Hollywood celebrities and Capitol power brokers keep mingling into the night.”

It was sad to see two of my favorite progressive journalists mingling among the celebrities and power brokers. One was David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones; the other, Ari Melber of The Nation. Melber was photographed talking with former New York governor and fallen celebrity Eliot Spitzer. But maybe Melber was just being kind.

Prom night took a real pasting from Tom Brokaw, the distinguished NBC journalist and a founding member of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

“As I’m going around the country a lot of people say to me, ‘What’s happened with the press? What’s happened with political coverage in America? We don’t feel connected to it,’ ” he said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

“I don’t think the big press event in Washington should be that kind of glittering event where the whole talk is about Cristal champagne, taking over the Italian Embassy, who had the best party, who got to meet the most people,” he said. “That’s another separation between what we’re supposed to be doing and what the people expect us to be doing, and I think that the Washington press corps has to look at that.”

What the people expect is a thorough examination of a nation in crisis. That includes digging into what is happening to poor people denied medical care. What’s it like when you know you, your kid and your spouse are headed for bankruptcy or homelessness, and there’s nothing you can do about it?

What are all those troops going to do in Afghanistan for the next several years? And what about those banks? Bailed out, but they still are reluctant to lend money. If they did, it would help revive the economy. So would corporations putting their growing profits into hiring more workers. Let’s have a report on the job-creating performance of the Fortune 500 companies named Monday.

Make your own list of stories that should be covered, and they’ll be more valid than much of what comes out of Washington.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner illustrates why important but difficult stories often don’t make it. Chasing celebrities—or wanting to be a celebrity—has replaced the old practice of chasing news.

Washington coverage once better reflected what is happening to all of the country, instead of the tastes of elite journalists and those who aspire to be elite.

Big Washington bureaus sent journalists around America to report on how Washington actions affected the rest of the nation. Smaller bureaus tracked the activities of lawmakers from their regions and legislation affecting their areas. Strong regional papers did the same in state capitals and city halls and worked with the Washington crew to put out a report more comprehensive than what is available today. This wasn’t glamorous work but the results helped knit the country together.

That has ended, killed by media layoffs and the disappearance of a fighting spirit and a sense of civic responsibility. All we’re left with is prom night.

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By DornDiego, May 14, 2012 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

Slam Dunk Award to D.R. Zing.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, May 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment


I like your comments.  It reminds me of the recurring
footsteps symbolism in A Tale of Two Cities,
for example: 

Headlong, mad, and dangerous footsteps to force
their way into anybody’s life, footsteps not easily
made clean again if once stained red, the footsteps
raging in Saint Antoine afar off, as the little
circle sat in the dark London window.

I would offer one word of caution, however, about
implicit threats.  The footsteps we hear in the not-
so-distant future are most likely to be the sound
jackboots kicking in our doors.  The heads in the
basket are most likely to be our own. 

This is not to say humanity is not likely to
straighten itself out. It probably will. Nor is it to
say these words written here, spoken there, and
written elsewhere are meaningless; they certainly are

But the next few decades look very bleak indeed.  We
can only hope that when the dust settles, when the
wars end, when bankers no longer rule the world, when
superstition no longer supersedes judgment—we can
only hope these ideas and admonitions on TruthDig
and elsewhere will serve as both a template for a
peaceful future and a reminder of a terrible past. 

All the best.


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By thecrow, May 11, 2012 at 5:36 am Link to this comment

Guess Gary Webb wasn’t one of the “cool kids”.

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, May 11, 2012 at 5:15 am Link to this comment

QUOTE, Bill Boyarsky:

“Washington journalism is like high school. It has the same cool kids, mean girls, social rankings and the big prom—the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner. But unlike what happens in high school, the insular behavior of the Washington media affects the whole nation.”

The corporate media is representative of the degeneratocracy that has resulted from 99% electoral support of the corporate (R) & (D) party.

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

Jill Stein for President:

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By thecrow, May 11, 2012 at 4:40 am Link to this comment

“The Jonas Brothers are here. (Applause.) They’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But, boys, don’t get any ideas. (Laughter.) I have two words for you — predator drones. (Laughter.) You will never see it coming. (Laughter.) You think I’m joking. (Laughter.)”

Guess who was laughing.

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By prisnersdilema, May 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm Link to this comment

“Make your own list of stories that should be covered, and they’ll be more valid
than much of what comes out of Washington.”

Yes, because the purpose of news is no longer about news, it’s about something
else, called disinformation.

Which was much the same as the high school news paper, usually dominated by
the High School administration, that ran stories that few people cared about
except maybe the parents of the authors. But if someone were to talk about
something that really mattered they would be in trouble, and soon be gone….

And not only is that the way our media is run, but it’s also reflective of the intellect
and emotional intelligence of those that run the news, as well as our political
class.  Actually High School may set the bar too high, junior high would be closer
to their actual level.

They are oblivious, like ruling classes always seem to be, as long as the pitchforks
do not appear in sight.

They say that during the French Revolution, that when the heads of the Royalty
were caught in the basket that awaited them, after the guillotine blade fell on their
neck, some of the proletariat would quickly look into their eyes. To see if they
finally “got it”.

Some people never do, they remain oblivious to the end, born dead dreaming…

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By Big B, May 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm Link to this comment

This has always rubbed me the wrong way. The connected of DC all get together and pat each other on the back and play grab ass for a few hours.

The worse angel of my nature would like to set the building on fire and shoot anyone that runs out. Most of the people in that room are part of the problem.

To call themselves journalists is a slap in the face to every one who ever worked hard to get a story.

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By D.R. Zing, May 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment

Here’s some places where the news media dropped the

The abortion issue.  The media gave it front and
center coverage for decades and stopped covering the
issue of overpopulation.  Turd Award here. 

Climate change.  The media in the 1990s made it sound
like an even debate between scientists who stated our
current rate of climate change is a result of human
activity and scientists who stated it is a natural
event.  In truth, over 95% of scientists in the
1990s, about the same percentage as now, believed
humans are causing rapid climate change. Turd Award
goes to:  The News Media. 

Collapse of the ecosystem.  Even now media companies
are refusing to report on the collapse of the
ecosystem. Turd Award goes to Rupert Murdoch. 

Proliferation of small arms worldwide.  The news
media never mentions the proliferation of small arms
—rocket propelled grenades, assault rifles,
landmines, surface to air missiles—increase the
likelihood of nuclear war. Turd award goes to: The
News Hour. 

Lying is a point of view.  The media allows people to
lie and calls that a point of view.  Turd Award goes
to:  The News Media. 

Democrats and Republican taboo issues.  If an issue
is taboo to both Democrats and Republicans, the news
media will not discuss it. Turd Award:  MSNBC, ABC,
CBS, FOX, The News Hour.

TV is the public pillory.  The news media inflicts
Puritan morals on us all. They use the news as the
public pillory to humiliate anyone who gets caught
having an affair. Fuck you award goes to:  Eugene
Robinson for Tiger Woods article and the rest of the
public pillory news media. 

News is for kids.  The news media censors the news as
if it were a movie.  They make it appropriate for
children, palatable for modern Puritans, and
insufferable to anyone with a brain.  Turd Award goes
to:  Every newspaper and television station in

Never report the protesters message. Inevitably, two
hundred thousand people will protest on the street
and journalists give a simplistic description of why
they are protesting. For example, “They are
protesting corporate greed.” They will then bring in
some slimy bastard who works for a major news
corporation to explain what the protest really means.
“I’m scared shitless of my boss” Award goes to: Every
television journalist in America. 

The five hundred pound gorilla who’s taking a shit in
our living room.  Journalists everywhere are
terrified to mention the root of all he problems
mentioned above: Consolidation of the news media.
Break up the news media into smaller companies and a
lot of these problems go away.  “I checked my balls
at the door” Award goes to:  Journalists.

Dig peace. Don’t bury it.

D.R. Zing

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By Wabac Machinist, May 10, 2012 at 10:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Paris 1788,
St. Petersburg 1913,
Washington 2012…

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