The Blog

Missing the Perfect Storm

The mainstream media ignores a story tailor-made for them.

12:00 AM, Aug 3, 2005 • By EDWARD MORRISSEY
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THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA is often inconsistent in covering stories. They gave us wall-to-wall coverage when George W. Bush's National Guard service came under scrutiny, but suddenly made themselves scarce when over two hundred Vietnam veterans pointed out hole after hole in John Kerry's service narrative. When Rush Limbaugh ran into legal problems surrounding his addiction to painkillers, we heard breathless updates on subpoenas and court orders, but when Eason Jordan revealed his predilection to slandering the U.S. military, again the press pulled a disappearing act.

Michael LeBoeuf once commented that the elements of the perfect fiction would involve religion, royalty, sex, and mystery--and then boiled it down to one sentence: "My God," said the Queen, "I'm pregnant. I wonder who did it?" Is there a grand-unified theory of media interest and if so, what elements need to come together to make the perfect journalistic storm?

We often hear journalists claim that their mission consists of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. One crucial element must therefore put powerful people under a spotlight. Some journalists say that they fight for the little guy, the downtrodden, which means that the story must include victims. Still others like investigative work, digging through arcane paperwork and doubletalk to reveal misdeeds that otherwise would never come to light, which means that a crime or at least unethical conduct would help draw interest. And finally, big money always attracts a crowd and helps audiences relate to the disgraceful actions unveiled by the reporter.

Thus, the perfect journalistic storm would arise when powerful people victimize the poor and downtrodden, breaking laws or at least ethical constructs, by taking money meant for their benefit. That sort of story will get anyone's attention. All it takes is one reporter to tell the story, and the rest of the media will jump all over it. Right?

ACTUALLY, this perfect-storm story is already percolating in the blogosphere, and oddly enough, hardly anyone in the mainstream media is paying attention to it. Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer noticed a short blurb in the local-only July 26th edition of the New York Daily News reporting that a well-known corporation had taken money from a Bronx non-profit charity--city government grant money earmarked for poor kids and Alzheimer's patients. The corporation's CEO had also served on the board of directors for Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club and had quarterbacked a "loan" to his struggling company using these earmarked funds. The Daily News also noted that the money added up to almost a half-million dollars, funds that should have provided services to the elderly and the disadvantaged children of the borough.

On July 27, Maloney then contacted other bloggers to publicize this sensational story. The news that a corporation had apparently taken government money intended for poor kids and Alzheimer's patients to fund their operations spread through the blogosphere. Many bloggers featured the story on their sites, some to pass along the alleged malfeasance to their readers, others to defend the corporation--even after the corporation confirmed the essential elements of the story while trying to avoid responsibility by blaming previous ownership.