Sunday, February 08, 2009

Why too many journalists still don't get it.

As I write this, Dateline has just introduced its final segment, about top executives on Wall Street and elsewhere who've continued "living large" (I'm quoting anchor Hoda Kotb*) even despite the events of the past six months. The segment is called, "Why too many CEOs"Kotb pauses a beat for effect"still don't get it."

Why too many CEOs...still don't "get it"?

That's supposed to be honest journalism? I could see if they said, "Why many CEOs are still living large," and left it at that; the too, as in "too many," would have to go, as that clearly implies judgment, but many CEOs are indisputably "living large," so that's a permissible statement, in my book. I could even see if they said, "Why the average Joe, up to and including Joe the Plumber, is fed up with corporate America's ruling class." That's certainly defensible, based on the polls. But why the CEOs don't "get it"? Is there any way to interpret that, other than to conclude that there's some universal truth that all those horrid and unfeeling rich people** haven't yet learned or simply refuse to face?


P.S., POST-SHOW. No, I wasn't "jumping to conclusions." The segment was exactly what I expected.

* For the benefit of those who never watch the show, that is the correct spelling. It's a woman.
** unlike, say, the underpaid network anchors themselves.


Anonymous said...

Did Hoda critique Keith Olbermann of MSNBC? He's pulling down $7.5 million a year while blasting CEOs on his show. And Jay Leno is pulling down $25 million a year while blasting Bush's handling of the economy on a nightly basis. Did Hoda ask Jay to give up his car collection because people are hurting? Don't those fatcats at NBC "get it"?

If and when General Electric - the parent company of NBC and MSNBC - asks for a taxpayer bailout, will Leno and Olbermann have their "executive" pay capped at $500K?

This class warfare stuff gets real old real fast.

Elizabeth said...

I have not seen the show, but I think I get it, Steve, in that the phrase is sort of a shorthand for expressing one's disbelief and amazement (and outrage, as it may be) regarding other people's misbehaviors.

I think I get your objection, as far as journalistic objectivity goes (I think), but I don't have the same emotional reaction to the offense. You could say, I suppose, that I don't (fully?) get it. :)

You know, I think that many people don't "get it." The bishop who denies the Holocaust doesn't get it. Men don't get it when it comes to women. Women don't get it when it comes to men. The mother of the octuplets (and six other children) who fashions herself to be an Angelina Jolie's long-lost twin doesn't get it. Etc. Yes, the phrase implies some universal truth -- or at least a common agreement on certain universal subjects -- but I, for one, don't find it objectionable, whether it's used in everyday conversations or by journalists and other public figures.

And I happen to agree that too many CEOs don't get it, as evidenced by, for example, their lavish spending of the bailout monies. Not horrid and unfeeling, necessarily (though that possibility cannot be excluded), but certainly tone-deaf, not to mention selfish and irresponsible.

P.S. But, yeah, the news anchors accusing CEOs of not getting it is sorta amusing in its own right. The Pots and Kettles Club. :)

OTOH, the TV anchors and journalists have not created the financial mess and they are not responsible for fixing it, nor do their financial (mis)management problems contribute in any (significant) ways to the collapse of our economy. The same cannot be said about the CEOs in question.

Steve Salerno said...

What frankly scares me, Eliz,
is that I think the media now have the sense that they and Obama and The People are All In This Together, all part of a grand and noble Crusade for The Common Man, and that they can speak freely in defense of that ethic because, why, they have a Mandate from America! They represent Truth and Justice and The Way Things Ought To Be.

First of all, as Anon above points out, that whole idea is a bit laughable, given the salaries typical at the upper echelons of media; I don't expect to see Olberman (or Kotb, for that matter) down at Goodwill buying clothes. But even though I myself voted for Obama, I am very uncomfortable with the idea that American media now have an "authorized" narrative of how life should be looked at. They can report, but they shouldn't root--and as I've said (controversially) before, they shouldn't sympathize, either. We as individuals can--and I think should--sympathize. Not journalists.

Elizabeth said...

because, why, they have a Mandate from America!

Well, they all got the same memo: the paradigm has shifted and recession is the new black.

Steve, I know where you are coming from in your criticisms, but I find this obligatory paradigm shift in the media understandable, even though irritating and unintentionally amusing. Especially the assorted advice programs/columns telling us all how we should live now when the Earth is no longer flat and one has to scale down on buying vacation homes in exotic locales.

The fashion advice (I do follow fashion, more or less) is particularly laughable:

How to dress in recession? From fashionistas to recessionistas.

Here we have a lovely and modest Oscar de la Renta gown made of potato sacks, perfect for a somber ball celebrating the governor's impeachment. The gown, in brownish-golden hues, subtly embellished with specks of silver dust, costs only $999.99 -- a real bargain, totally appropriate for these difficult times. We can accessorize it with simple gladiator sandals from Manolo Blahnik's new Poverty Line, for only $495.00. Complete the outfit with the Balenciaga "Empty Portfolio" clutch ($1,599.99) and a distraught ex-banker boyfriend (priceless, and eco-friendly).

And then there is the wave of endless moralizing, telling us, with a suspiciously sadistic-sounding satisfaction, how we are all going to change and appreciate the small things in life, etc. etc. Not that there isn't some truth in that, but it is 1. awfully nauseating, and 2. re-discovering the wheel, for most of us.

But the media people have to fill their pages and time slots with some content, after all. Speaking of which, Steve, I am absolutely thrilled to forward this week's cover of Newsweek to you -- I am certain that you, of all people, will enjoy it (wicked grin).

Dimension Skipper said...

Eliz, that link for the cover doesn't quite work for me. It sort of gives a blank cover. But some minor tweaking led me to this version which does seem to work.

notreallyalice said...

Can you recommend an honest and objective source for news, or even single journalists?

I tend toward the Democracy Now sorts of programs, but not only do they leave me depressed as hell, I know I can't fully trust THAT perspective either. I guess, when it comes to reality, I'd rather things be better than I fear than worse than I'm willing to recognize.

Elizabeth said...

DimSkip, thank you for your tireless (and not so minor, IMO) tweaking! The link is so much better. Now we are all socialists, ahhh... ;)

Your PR Guy said...

Steve, Steve ...

Journalism is about entertainment. Don't you "get it." It's about drama. That line is dramatic because it DOES infuse opinion. And a snide one at that. It's about grabbing readers' attention, about creating news out of nothing at all.

The news isn't CEO pay per performance, or lack thereof, and C-suite lifestyles of the rich and famous. It's about the reporter -- it's about Hoda. It's about her (or her network's take) on that lifestyle which, apparently, got our country in this financial slop bucket.

Steve Salerno said...

PRG: There are a lot of things I don't seem to get lately. I just try to feel my way through on each new day.

Good to see you again.