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March 11, 2008

McCain the BBQ and the press

Check out the series at Common Nonsense.


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It better have been a good BBQ.

It better have been a good BBQ.
----- ----- -----

Doesn't have to have been though ... Professional Journalists™ come cheap.

"You cannot hope to bribe or twist
(thank God)
the British journalist.
But seeing what the man will do
there's no occasion to."
--Humbert Wolfe, if memory serves.

(Ours don't take shorthand in school, either ... any scribble will do. "It was just one word!")

In 2004, the press also ate John McCain's food:
Guests included NBC's Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, ABC's Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Ted Koppel and George Stephanopoulos, CBS's Mike Wallace, Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, ABC News chief David Westin, Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, CNN's Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, CNBC's Gloria Borger, PBS's Charlie Rose—pause here to exhale—and U.S. News & World Report publisher Mort Zuckerman, Washington Post Chairman Don Graham, New York Times columnists William Safire and David Brooks, author Michael Lewis and USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro.

They and others dined on lobster salad, loin of lamb, assorted wines, creme brulee, lemon souffle and French tarts.

Reporters shouldn't eat free food from candidates.

Thanks for the bump.

Free food (or free lodging, I'm trying to find out exactly who paid for what) is only the tip of the iceberg.

The real rub, ethically, is what Anna Marie Cox and Howard Kurtz talk about at the end of the second post. That this sort of access does influence coverage.

It's a mistake to fixate the quid pro quo, like every scoop of potato salad is another fawning paragraph written about McCain. There's an important distinction between bribery and attempts at influence.

The BBQ itself is not some sort of singular and amazing failure of journalism, the reason I gave it so much attention is that it is microcosm of so many press problems. Publishing what is essentially PR, stories with no news value, conflict of interest and ethical problems, coziness between the press and their targets and the willingness to trade away good journalism in favor of maintaining access.

Again thanks for the bump. Soon I'll crack the top million blogs!

After reading those two articles, I propose a term for reporters that do not report critically on McCain. S/He "Ate the BBQ"

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