So Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama finally had their long-awaited summit last night. Both pledged to put the bitter primary battle behind them, and to work tirelessly to unify our party and defeat "Walnuts" McCain in November.
Pretty big story, right? Oh, no, there's a much more sinister story line here... Barack Obama was a big meanie and (gasp!) secretly ditched his media contingent. While he was sitting down with Hillary, the press corps were being jetted back to Chicago.
They got pissy. And apparently when they get pissy, it suddenly becomes front-page news -- both CNN and Fox News have this "story" on their home pages.
This line is just precious:
"Right now it is a general election – they’re treated the same way the president is. If the president goes bike riding, we go with him. If he goes out to dinner or goes to visit a friend three blocks up the road, we go with him in the motorcade, and that’s the expectation in the general election, and that’s the way with previous candidates...that’s the way it’s done. So why are we diverging from that?"
Translation: "If Barack Obama takes a friggin' dump, we go with him! The First Amendment says so! Wah! Wah!"
A disclaimer here -- I used to do the reporting thing a few years back. And I had plenty of occasions when sources acted like supreme jerks. There's no greater joy as a reporter than having someone call you a string of obscenities, then hanging up the phone. Or swearing that they'll break a big story with you... then promptly leaking it to your biggest competitor. Or... well, you get the idea. Journalism ain't always roses and rainbows.
My editor, though, had a strict rule -- you aren't the story. You're merely the person telling the story. Leave your own drama out of it.
So a source wouldn't return repeated calls? It was verboten to write anything beyond: "Mr. X could not be reached for comment."
If he swore at you and hung up, this was what you had to write: "Mr. X declined to comment."
Yeah, Mr. X might be a jerk. But readers really could give a shit if he hurt your feelings, my editor reasoned. And he was right.
Nowadays, though, it seems like reporters are obsessed with telling their audience how mean someone was to them. (And, apparently, NOT telling readers when they jet off to Arizona for some free barbecue with Walnuts. But that's another story.)
"Couldn't be reached for comment" has evolved into "So-and-so didn't return repeated telephone calls seeking comment."
"So-and-so declined to comment" has become "So-and-so said an expletive and hung up."
And Obama deciding to change plans at the last minute and leaving on a plane separate from the press corps turns into a five-minute-long temper tantrum by the press pool, helpfully posted on news websites around the world.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, you aren't the story. You're merely the storytellers.
Park the egos and start reporting the news.
UPDATE: H/t to MarkinNC for noting that CNN is selling T-shirts with the "Obama dodge miffs press corps" headline. You just can't make this stuff up.
And thanks to all for the recs!