Tuesday, April 19, 2005

This morning's Times: Pope Signals and Bumiller's jottings passed off as reporting

Ruth alerts this morning to "Pope Signals" by noting this on the front page of the New York Times web site: "NEWS ALERT 5:55 AM ET Black Smoke Signals Second Inconclusive Vote at Papal Conclave."

What is going on here? What's with this morning's front page story by Daniel J. Wakin and Ian Fisher? Or with Laurie Goodstein's article inside the paper? Is this an open process that needs this constant attention? Are we afraid the Pope vote will be stolen without the constant observations and comments from the press?

No, it's publicity, free publicity, passing as news. With the media trying to get itself worked up over another easy to do story that's really not about anything. But watch them pad and stretch and hype and schill. What's going on in Nepal, wouldn't it be great if it got half this attention?
That's actually news. And it's not just Nepal. Pick any area that comes to mind. Go with the Sudan. Anywhere. You'll find actual news.

This is a non-story being teased. When the next pope is chosen we'll be getting profiles (feature stories) passing themselves off as breaking news.

At best, when that time comes, it's an announcement. But watch the press try to tease into a news story just as they try to treat no-news on a process (a closed one) as news.

This isn't a story of a democratically elected leader. It's a closed door process that the press will not be allowed to witness but they'll cover it like they're in-the-know and they'll act as though this is the most important story going down right now.

Let's go to real news and note Douglas Jehl and Steven R. Weisman's "Delay Is Sought in Vote on U.N. Nominee." Senator Joe Biden is seeking a delay in the vote and more details are emerging including this one:

On Monday, one of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's top aides spoke out in opposition to Mr. Bolton.
"Under Secretary Bolton was never the formidable power that people are insinuating he was in terms of foreign policy, or blocking the policies that Secretary Powell wished to pursue," Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Mr. Powell's chief of staff, said in a telephone interview.
"But do I think John Bolton would make a good ambassador to the United Nations? Absolutely not," Mr. Wilkerson said. "He is incapable of listening to people and taking into account their views. He would be an abysmal ambassador."

Did you hear that? Did you hear what Lawrence Wilkerson said? That's how the Democrats should have been talking from day one. He did ___ plus because he has done ____ he is not fit for the post because _____.

Other news comes via Monica Davey and Pam Belluck's "Pharmacies Balk on After-Sex Pill and Widen Fight in Many States:"

In some states, legislators are pushing laws that would explicitly grant pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense drugs related to contraception or abortion on moral grounds. Others want to require pharmacies to fill any legal prescription for birth control, much like Governor Blagojevich's emergency rule in Illinois, which requires pharmacies that stock the morning-after pill to dispense it without delay. And in some states, there are proposals or newly enacted laws to make the morning-after pill more accessible, by requiring hospitals to offer it to rape victims or allowing certain pharmacists to sell it without a prescription.
Some of the bills could become moot if the Food and Drug Administration approves the morning-after pill for over-the-counter sale by pharmacists, something advocates for women's reproductive rights and several Democratic senators have pressured the agency to do.
If over-the-counter sales are allowed, experts on the issue say, pharmacists who do not want to provide the pill on moral grounds could simply decide not to stock it, which current state laws already allow them to do. If a large drugstore chain decided to stock it, but an individual pharmacist in the chain objected, such a dispute might be governed by the employment agreements between the chain and the pharmacist.

Elisabeth Bumiller leaves the safety of her floating op-ed to file the sixteen paragraph "Bush, on Road, Says He Is Open to Ideas on Social Security." Sadly, Bumiller can leave the safety of her floating op-ed but only by packing her op-ed guidelines and taking them with her as she hits the road.

Here's a hint for Bumiller: Never again write about Social Security outside of your op-eds since you either know so little or care so little. This isn't a news story. "Mr. Bush said . . ."
repeated over and over in various variations isn't news. It's stenography.

What passes for "conflict" emerges in the ninth paragraph in the form of an intra-party squabble and Bumiller seems to think that allows her to file this transcript and call it news. Nobody fluffs like Bumiller which is why she's the squad leader of the Elite Fluff Patrol. But push it in a White House Letter, don't treat this non-reporting as news because it's not.

Bully Boy says this, Bully Boy says that and we never get one word on what the reality is. Bumiller can, and has, filtered out reality in her White House Letters. Covering the spectrum from A to B, someone fancies this nonsense "news." It's transcription. Either Bumiller's abdicated her role as a journalist to fluff or she doesn't know any better any more. This is truly embarrassing and it brings to mind issues of legacy (she has none to be proud of) touched on in The Third Estate Sunday Review and the way she "covers" events which you can also see dealt with in a humorous but oh-so-true manner in The Third Estate Sunday Review. [Disclosure, I helped with both pieces.]

Check the links and and realize that Bumiller's spent some time as the joke at the Times. Now she's become the old, dirty joke. Where's the legacy?

"But there was evidence that Mr. Bush was personally more popular in South Carolina than his plan to restructure Social Security, which is also struggling nationally."

Only the leader of the Elite Fluff Patrol could pen such a statement with no backing details that made readers feel, "Maybe she's right? Maybe even though Bully Boy's polling at record lows he is popular in South Carolina?" If he is, Bumiller thinks you should just take her word for it.
She apparently believes that there is some groundswell of trust and admiration her jottings have created among the public. That's not the case. But if it were, she'd be a sloppy reporter for not providing details. Instead, she just comes off increasingly out of touch.

"Got to get me a burger" or some such nonsense is how Bumiller ends her article. Does she think that she's doing her job? Is she proud of her work? A fluffer can't handle hard news and the Times should have realized that a long time ago. (Again, I'd have no problem if they'd chosen her as the op-ed writer to replace William Safire. It was obvious from whom was interviewed and considered that readers weren't going to get anyone qualified to address issues or anyone who moved the national dialogue towards reality, so why not Bumiller?)

In paragraph twelve (always check my math), Bumiller notes that Bully Boy "offered no more specifics" on Social Security. Neither did Bumiller. Is she excused from it because the Bully Boy didn't offer any? If she's turning in a feature for US Weekly, maybe. If she's being passed off as a hard news reporter, no, she's not excused from doing her job, she's not excused from the basic responsibilities of journalism.

(In fairness to Bumiller, she may have thought she was writing another floating op-ed and an editor might have decided this was actually a "news story." It's not.)

Reading Sarah Kershaw's "New Slide May Help Salmon Cross Dams. But Are They Being Taken for a Ride?" you wonder what a real reporter might do were she covering the Bully Boy? And that's an issue that gets lost in the Bumiller discussion: the Times could assign someone else.
They don't. They're pleased with her fluffing. (Though not pleased enough to make her an op-ed writer on the op-ed pages. And hopefully even a Fluffer like Bumiller realizes she'd more than earned her slot on the op-ed pages and that the paper's decision otherwise says a great deal about what they really think about her.) Kershaw's piece may start a few discussions, even debates. Readers just nod off at Bumiller's jottings.

Since the paper failed to reward her with an op-ed slot (slapdown?), you have to wonder what Bumiller's in it for? I doubt she enjoys being the joke of readers. (As always, I could be wrong.) She's creating no journalism legacy and she's become the easy joke for the paper, the poster child for bad journalism. Is that really what motivated her to become a reporter?

People can surprise us. Maybe there's a second act for Bumiller? I'd like to think so but she's created so many obstacles that prevent her from ever being taken seriously in her chosen field
and since the paper's refused to place her writing where it belongs (on the op-ed pages), she should grasp that the paper's not going to take care of her. No one's going to rescue her, it's time she saved herself. The Times is perfectly happy to run with her jottings and pass them off as reporting. And maybe Bumiller's fine with being the joke of the D.C. press corps? (And she is, not just among readers.) In this bling-bling, get my shout outs world, maybe things like legacy and public service don't matter anymore?

Who knows? We'll deal with an article Brad sent in on Adam Nagourney's whining (Brad's term, but one I agree with so we won't put it in quotes) and other topics this evening.

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