s skippy the bush kangaroo: and the little bloggers shall lead them - a skippy musing

skippy the bush kangaroo

Monday, May 08, 2006

and the little bloggers shall lead them - a skippy musing

we in blogtopia (and yes, we coined that phrase!) often tear our hair out (and in skippy's case, that is precious little) over what we perceive to be the "corporate top-down media," or "those in charge," or "the right wing," or "the man," and their inability or refusal to notice and cover what stories we deem to be important.

take stephen colbert. please! (rim shot)

tho it's been over a week since the notrious appearance at the washington correspondents' dinner where colbert skewered awol right in front of his bewildered and grumpy face, the story and its significance has only now begun to seep into the main stream media. blogtopia (y!wctp!) immediately pounced on (a) the story itself, and then (b) the refusal of dinosaur media to pounce on (a) the story itself.

peter daou, writing two days after the event at huffpo, proclaimed a "media blackout." in the days that followed, dkos, atrios, the moderate voice, alternet and chris durang, to name but a few (specifically, five), all chimed in with the opinion that the msm (or "the man") were purposefully not writing about the rapier wit and brass balls that colbert exhibited that night. this was because, the consensus goes, the top-down media are lazy, or right-wing, or just snobby.

but if we look, we find stories in the msm about the night in question. time.com has a scathing page one article by (who else?) wonkette, which takes bloggers to task for assuming that the audience at the correspondents' dinner didn't laugh because the jokes were too pointed. time.com goes on to insist it was because colbert wasn't funny. and james poniewozik makes an interesting point in time.com's television section:

if anything, he was playing against the room—part of the frisson of his performance was the discomfort he generated in the audience, akin to the cringe humor of da ali g show. (cringe humor, too, is something probably lost on much of the washington crowd at the dinner, as their pop-culture tastes tend to be on the square side.) to the audience that would watch colbert on comedy central, the pained, uncomfortable, perhaps-a-little-scared-to-laugh reaction shots were not signs of failure. they were the money shots. they were the whole point.

in other words, what anyone fails to get who said colbert bombed because he didn't win over the room is: the room no longer matters.
irrespective of whether ana marie is right or not (our usual view of ana marie), the fact remains that with her and james's essays, time.com addressed the event, it's aftermath, and it's implications. although, and this is an important point, they did it several days after the fact (james, 5 days; ana marie, 6).

other msm organs are equally better-late-than-never in their reporting on colbert's appearance. the christian science monitor, in a piece published today (10 days after!), calls for an end to the annual dinner event, because it's irrelevant and too insular:

the dinner is like prom as imagined by the debate team. the political geek set gets dressed up and glamorous and sits down to congratulate itself, but fearing it isn't cool enough on its own, media organizations try to score a-list celebrities from new york or los angeles to dine at their tables…

the bigger issue though, is the coziness of it all.

the press has always occupied an odd place in this city. the reporters, pundits, and editors here are not the political establishment. they don't make laws or issue court rulings. but they clearly are part of the city's primary industry. and at times that leads some in the press to view all of the folks here, politicians and reporters alike, as part of one big organism - or worse, one big game.

"hey, underneath the bickering, we're all 'beltway people.'" that's the message of the correspondent's dinner. and that message fits too neatly with what many already think of the press in washington.
the nypost reported (7 days after the event) that colbert's caustic routine boosted the ratings of his comedy central show by 37%. the latimes (also 7 days after) waxed enthusiastically about how the bloggers were discussing the appearance - and used that premise as a conduit to discuss the appearance itself (latimes specifically quote soundbitten's greg beato, writing in the rake). the toledo blade gave colbert's appearance a big thumbs up ("a satirist that satirizes? egads!") a whole week afterwards.

mark morford at the sfchron (a mere 2 days after) said colbert had "brass cojones"(morford also wonders about c-span forcing youtube to pull the colbert video clip over copyright infringement: "it's hard c-span not enjoying all the free publicity. hmmm").

richard cohen in the washpost (published today) bemoaned the fact that people emailed him with very negative reactions to his column describing colbert's performance as unfunny -- and that somehow that anger spells trouble for the democrats (don't ask, we couldn't follow that logic either. if you want to ask him about it, email him).

but our favorite comes from the doug elphman in the chicago sun-times, who wondered "did the media miss the real colbert story?":

how's this for a newsworthy lead? it was perhaps the first time in bush's tenure that the president was forced to sit and listen to any american cite the litany of criminal and corruption allegations that have piled up against his administration. and mouth-tense bush and first lady laura bush fled as soon as possible afterward.
doug hits the nail on the head musing about reasons that the top-down corporate media reamained silent:

this is trouble for the media. it has been losing customers to bloggers and web sites for years. this won't help. the media's implosion of silence could be one of the final reasons many liberals use to not turn on tv news. it's not like they feel a vested interest in the industry anyway, since it has been bought and parceled by conservatives.

what does this all prove, other than the interns at skippy international know how to use google? two things, actually, one of which should make bloggers proud, and the other more cautionary.

it was blogtopia (y!wctp!) that kept this story going. if the top-down corporate media had its way, colbert would be relegated to the david letterman-hosts-the-oscars section in the museum of public appearances. the msm, which couldn't bring themselves to actually taking the story head-on, decided to write about how other people were writing about the event. sort of the "you touched it last, you're responsible" school of journalism.

why, you ask, take such a convoluted approach to a national story? because, we believe, the top-down media is just dull.

now, we don't mean dull, as in the opposite of exciting. we mean dull, as in the opposite of bright. and not even especially un-bright, but more un-connected, out of the loop, tragically unhip.

bloggers expect immediate reaction; thus is the nature of the internets. we have an opinion, we write an opinion...somebody immediately counters our opinion with their own, either on our blog or theirs. so when the msm doesn't immediately react, we suspect evil, conspiracy, laziness or greed as factors. we never suspect squareness.

the shelf-life of a story on the internets is, maybe, a day, tops. maybe two, if there's blood or homosexual sex involved. but when it comes to stories, the internets eat faster than william conrad at hometown buffet, because the techno-savvy wiz kids that we all are operate at the speed of 2 gig processors, and damn, that's fast!

however, newspapers and electronic media cannot move that fast. they have mobs of bosses and layers of lawyers that need to give approval, vet, make decisions, cover their asses, and generally slow down the process. and, bottom line, they are run by a bunch of rich white guys, and you can't get any more boring, unhip, and just plain timid than that.

and brings us to our second point. maybe the reason no big papers and talk shows didn't broach the subject of colbert's appearance really was because they just didn't get it.

come on, expecting national journos to report on a comedian making fun of them (by extension) is rather like waiting for your mom and dad to talk about pink (or, for older readers, waiting for your mom and dad to talk about nirvana (or, for older readers, about depeche mode (or, talking heads (or funkadelic (or cream (or the beatles (or miles davis (or glenn miller (or scott joplin (well, you get the idea...no matter what age you are, people older than you are not hip)))))))))).

so, rather than bemoan the fact that the msm doesn't write about things rightthisminute, we should proudly accept our roles as the conduit through which important stories are continually discussed.

if the national press needs us to do their research, analysis, vetting and reporting, well...somebody's gotta do it. it might as well be us. we get it.
posted by skippy at 9:02 PM |


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