Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
When one of Vice President Joe Biden’s staffers shut a Florida reporter in a closet-like room to keep him from talking to people attending a Democratic fundraiser, it symbolized how the media’s status has fallen. When Biden’s spokesperson tried to explain it by claiming the reporter was merely in a holding area and making other factual errors it symbolized how spin is compulsive.
And when the blogosphere exaggerated it and Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers tried to clear up inaccuracies with details and got attacked as a Biden hack, it symbolized how some blogs are like talk radio. Why revise a narrative with facts if aimed at someone on the other side who you seek to discredit?
First, a lower-level staffer put Powers in a closet like room. Initial news headlines said he was “locked” in a closet. “Locked” and “closet” disappeared in later stories. A Biden spokesperson tried to apologize, claiming Powers was in a holding area and also got another fact wrong.
If former Vice President Dick Cheney had stuffed a journalist in a small room to keep him from talking to fundraiser guests, it would have been called a major assault on press freedom.
Probably the main difference is that Cheney would never have let the reporter out. Or he would have taken him hunting.
You know the kinds of jokes you’ll hear from comedians now. Something like:
Joe Biden’s staff kept a reporter in a closet to keep him from talking to people at a fundraiser. This wasn’t the first time a reporter came out of the closet. What’s the big deal? A lot of the White House press corps are hangers on. A staffer issued an apology that created controversy. The staffer’s statement was to an apology what Donald Trump’s comb-over is to hair.
This came amid must-do media stories. First, former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman Vice Presidential nominee of a major party, died. Then former House Speaker Newt Gingrich offered a series of craven flip flops on Libya and insisted his divorce and deposition helped give him vital experience to lead the Bill Clinton impeachment. Ferraro shattered the glass ceiling. Gingrich shattered his glass house.
Powers wrote about blog coverage: “I was kidnapped. That was news to me. My paper and I conspired to cover this up, to protect Vice President Joe Biden and his staff from charges they had imprisoned me at a fundraiser last week. That was news to me too. In fact, a lot of details circulating through the blogosphere — and into some mainstream media — about my coverage of Biden’s fundraising visit to a Winter Park home last Wednesday were news to me.”
ONE: Stuffing a reporter in a closet like room shows how deference to the media has shrunk. Even a lower level staffer would not have done that 10 years ago.
TWO: The Biden team’s apology was hideous. It kept the story alive. Does everything have to be transparent spin?
THREE: The blogosphere has not lived up to its potential of creating a sea of serious citizen journalists and serious analysts. Too many political blogs are de facto appendages of political parties or vomited up polemics from left and right political talk show hosts.
What Biden, the media and blogosphere need is to hope people don’t remember this incident. They – like Trump — need a good comb-over.
Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.
Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman.