The Media Frets Over Media Treatment

I caught this yesterday, but found it so silly I couldn’t really develop a point to it. Now I’ve figured that point out, and the point is that it’s really amazing media silliness. The basic point here is that Ryan Lizza, who wrote that large article in the New Yorker about Obama’s Chicago machinations, didn’t get a seat on the foreign trip. The real crux, as I see it, is that there were 40 available openings, and 200 reporters vying for the seats. That means only 20% of “applicants” can be accomodated, meaning you’re going to have a lit of rejects.

Now, of course, the “controversy” is the speculation that Lizza is being punished for his article, but let me offer a simpler, less outrageous, less media self-obsessed explanation; Lizza works for The New Yorker. And no, that’s not a Covergate reference, it’s a reference to The New Yorker’s obscurity in the big media picture. Yes, it’s read by a lot of the media crowd concentrated in New York, but outside of that it has very limited exposure value. So if I’m looking to fill a very limited number of seats for a very prominent, very important trip, I’m looking to go to the big outlets with lots of exposure. That means that television gets first considerations, so if we allow 1 seat per organization (and obviously that’s not holding) with ABC, NBC (and we’ll roll NBC and MSNBC together), CBS, CNN, and Fox to consider, we’ve just filled 5 seats (of 40). Assume 2 reporters per outlet, and we’re up to 10 seats, of 40, or 25% of all available seats.

So even though the media and blogosphere is keen to be realy self-absorbed and self-obsessed, especially about such matters of respect and access, could we maybe step back for a second and consider that Ryan Lizza and The New Yorker really just aren’t relevant enough to warrant a seat in very high demand on such a prominent trip? I mean, I’ve been really critical of John McCain in general, but if I don’t get a press credential to cover the Republican convention, I’m probably not going to reflexively assume it’s because they’re “punishing” me for saying mean things about John McCain’s understanding of the world. But then, I’m not a journalist.

Also, the real problem I see with the Politico/Sklar coverage of it is that they don’t even seem to understand what exactly is going on. Lizza didn’t have anything to do with the cover, and yet both focus on that, instead of the 15,000 word article Lizza wrote about Obama. Subsequent musings through the blogosphere have fixed that, but then we have a real disconnect in the story and the commentary don’t we?