Monday, May 16, 2005

Elephants & Bunnies

Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz writes about how coverage of House Minority Leader Tom DeLay's ethics troubles have spurred a swarm of ethics coverage in local media nationwide.

Reporters call it "localizing" a story -- taking the big national story and seeing if it flies in your coverage area. In the DeLay case, that's meant newspapers looking at their local Congress member to see if he or she has done anything shady lately.

It's turning up a lot of coverage of close ties to lobbyists -- among both Republicans and Democrats.

Choosing Targets Carefully

The national media will usually focus on the big target. These are guys and gals who hunt elephants and like having a Tom DeLay in their sites. Bringing down a House Minority Leader is a nice trophy to hang on the wall -- just ask the journalists who did that with former House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-TX) after bad press put that "former" before his name and title.

So the national media don't cover the Congressman no one's ever heard of ouside his district. Afterall, there's not much left when you level an elephant gun on a bunny rabbit.

Rabbit Hunting Reporters and the Vegetarian Editor

In fairness, local papers can be serious rabbit hunters when they want to be. Other times, they sit out the season.

Take the case of the Scranton Times and Tribune. Both papers share the same editor. When their local Congressman was accused of choking an "aquaintance" -- a 29 year old woman at his Washington digs -- the papers didn't report on it.

Mind you, Rep Don Sherwood's (R-PA) wife was not there at the time.

The papers share an editor -- Larry Beaupre -- who told the Columbia Journalism Review:

"This is Gary Hart all over again. Does the National Enquirer set the [news] agenda and everyone has to follow it? Are we going to write about the personal life of a politician if it is not criminal, if it is not unethical and if it does not have any effect on his public policy role? If that's the case, how many politicians' sex lives will we examine? I don't think it's fair reporting."

He may not bag any rabbits this season, but Mr Beaupre should be a shoo-in for the Gary Hart/Bill Clinton We-Need-More-Editors-Like-This Award. (WashPost)


Ike said...

To paraphrase the old saw: "My guy is a rabbit. It's all those other congressmen who are weasels."

Kelinci said...

Thanks. just read.