As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Famous Mr. Ed

Ed Henry has posted a breathless work of staggering back-patting about life inside the fast-paced world of asking pointless gotcha questions to the President, and how ya gotta think on your feet and make yourself as central to the story as possible:

At the first presser in February, I was about the 10th reporter the president called on. The economy had been chewed over so I went with a "sidebar" question about whether Obama, given his push for transparency, would overturn the policy at Dover Air Force Base preventing media coverage of coffins returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was a surprise line of inquiry. The president made news by saying the policy was under review -- and a few weeks later he overturned it.

I was heading into this event with the same strategy: make news on something unexpected (I won't tell you which topics I was working on cause it would ruin the surprise for a future presser or interview with the president).

Ezra has this right - Mr. Henry apparently got the impression from his journalism training that his role is to make news.

"Make news" is an interesting formulation for a reporter. I'm pretty sure the J School graduates are taught to "report" news, or maybe "explain" news. But creating news is rather a different goal. Inserting himself into the story, however, is well-aligned with Ed Henry's incentives. A lot more people know Ed Henry's name today than did a week ago. Henry can now write a column congratulating himself for standing tall in the face of the President's ire. It's similarly well-aligned with his industry's incentives. Though the American people might appreciate seeing the President offer a substantive explanation of his policy ideas -- 32 million of them, after all, watched the press conference for exactly that -- it's not the sort of thing that the cable channels can replay in bite-sized chunks. They're better off "making" a new news story that can lead tomorrow's Situation Room.

That's right. Journalism when caught up with commerce creates truly perverse incentives, where becoming the story is much more important than chasing the truth. Of course, the public has the choice of not participating in this by turning off their television every time Ed Henry is on. In a sense we get what we deserve, but in truth the alternative has not yet been tried.

Meanwhile, Henry's rant does have some value - it yielded this great parody about ed Henry visiting a Jack in the Box from Davenoon. Read in full.

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