Friday, December 30, 2005

The Lazy End of the Prince of Darkness

I've been busy, but I couldn't yet the end of the year pass without noting something that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else about the move of Robert Novak from CNN to Fox News.

First, a line from this story from Fox News itself (just a warning in case you normally try to avoid it's relentless fairness and balance...and steadfastness and resoluteness):
"He said he wanted to stay in TV, but do more limited work. FOX News Channel spokesman Brian Lewis confirmed his signing with that network." [italics mine]

And then there's this quote from The Washington Post:
"I will be 75 years old in February," Novak said. "I wanted to do a lot less."

He said that since all of his shows have been axed, "I didn't have that much to do and didn't ask for more to do."

Am I the only one inferring from this: "I still wanted to be on TV, but I didn't want to have to do any work, so I'm heading to Fox, which is the perfect place for such a thing"?

It made me think of this, which is from a February 1996 story by James Fallows in The Atlantic, "Why Americans Hate the Media" (its behind a subscription wall, unfortunately, but worth reading if you can find a way to get to it):
In the early spring of last year, when Newt Gingrich was dominating the news from Washington and the O. J. Simpson trial was dominating the news as a whole, The Washington Post ran an article about the pathos of the White House press room. Nobody wanted to hear what the President was doing, so the people who cover the President could not get on the air. Howard Kurtz, the Post's media writer, described the human cost of this political change:
Brit Hume is in his closet-size White House cubicle, watching Kato Kaelin testify on CNN. Bill Plante, in the adjoining cubicle, has his feet up and is buried in the New York Times. Brian Williams is in the corridor, idling away the time with Jim Miklaszewski.

An announcement is made for a bill-signing ceremony. Some of America's highest-paid television correspondents begin ambling toward the pressroom door.

"Are you coming with us?" Williams asks.

"I guess so," says Hume, looking forlorn.

The White House spokesman, Mike McCurry, told Kurtz that there was some benefit to the enforced silence: "Brit Hume has now got his crossword puzzle capacity down to record time. And some of the reporters have been out on the lecture circuit."

At the time, Hume was with ABC News. He left for Fox soon after. Is it any wonder why?

Fallows continues:
The deadpan restraint with which Kurtz told this story is admirable. But the question many readers would want to scream at the idle correspondents is Why don't you go out and do some work?

Why not go out and interview someone, even if you're not going to get any airtime that night? Why not escape the monotonous tyranny of the White House press room, which reporters are always complaining about? The knowledge that O.J. will keep you off the air yet again should liberate you to look into those stories you never "had time" to deal with before. Why not read a book--about welfare reform, about Russia or China, about race relations, about anything? Why not imagine, just for a moment, that your journalistic duty might involve something more varied and constructive than doing standups from the White House lawn and sounding skeptical about whatever announcement the President's spokesman put out that day?

What might these well-paid, well-trained correspondents have done while waiting for the O.J. trial to become boring enough that they could get back on the air? They might have tried to learn something that would be of use to their viewers when the story of the moment went away. Without leaving Washington, without going farther than ten minutes by taxi from the White House (so that they could be on hand if a sudden press conference was called), they could have prepared themselves to discuss the substance of issues that affect the public.

Which pretty much explains the rise of Fox News, where the story isn't the story, but the person delivering the story. You get to be on TV, but don't have to be bothered by, you know, facts. Besides, you're a pundit, you aren't delivering the news, you're interpreting the news. And you're simply interpreting it in a way to counteract the "liberal" interpretation of the mainstream media. You know, the dreaded "MSM," who actually expected something of value for all of the money they gave you.