Thursday, January 06, 2011

Jerry Brown and the press

Big subject. But obviously an important one.

Calbuzz has a weirdly mixed record this week reporting on California's new Governor. Their piece Inaugural: Brown Urges Loyalty to the Community 01/04/2011 is the best report I've seen on his inaugural speech, starting off with:

Jerry Brown’s inaugural address was a political homily that invoked a pioneer philosopher and his own ancestors’ journey westward to argue that California’s only way forward from chronic gridlock and fiscal morass is "loyalty to the community."
Those were the two most important parts of the speech in terms of articulating Jerry's larger vision. And this article put it in the lede where it belonged. The rest of the article is also informative and substantive.

But they've also laid two big eggs with their articles this week. The worse was the pre-inaugural Five Key Questions About Krusty’s Inaugural 01/03/2011, which was just downright silly. Calbuzz Rescues Inaugural from Crashing Boredom was nearly as bad; it's a report on an evening inaugural party at a restaurant featuring various dignitaries including the new Governor that reads like Maureen Dowd on downers:

Still, the 90 or so revelers who were actually conscious for the big party, held at fabulous Lucca restaurant (plenty of valet parking), did their best to overcome their disappointment at his absence [an imaginary character!, dining on smoked chicken risotto, chicken saltimbocca, pan roasted salmon and grilled bistro steak, consuming mass quantities of Ray Station Merlot, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Camelot Cabernet, and enjoying an evening utterly bereft of the tedious, mind-numbing speechifying that characterizes most such events in Sacramento.

Plus, they got a really cool credential — the type which the skinflint Brown operation provided to no one covering his big day.
Plus there are pictures of various people, all without captions. (?!)

Calbuzz is the product of a duo, Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine. I'm guessing that one of the wrote the good article and the other produced the two stinkers. They really should start signing their articles. It might discourage the Maureen Dowd parodies - which seemed to have been intended as web-savvy cynicism. Good grief!

One of the more memorable (both catchy and substantial) quotes from Jerry's inaugural was, "Without the trust of the people, politics degenerates into mere spectacle; and democracy declines, leaving demagoguery and cynicism to fill the void." The lines that came just before that are, "the public holds the state government in such low esteem. And that’s a profound problem, not just for those of us who are elected, but for our whole system of self-government."

Our press today seems almost constitutionally incapable of processing something like that as anything but rhetorical fluff. I doubt most of them realized that the "spectacle" line was also a slap at the press, whose now-chronic dysfunctionality contributes in a major way to that result.

Evan Halper of the Los Angeles Times gave a great illustration of that in an article to which Michael Mishak and Shane Goldmacher also had their names attached, Taking state's reins for 3rd time 01/03/2011. Their report on the inauguration focuses on ... the spectacle. Because that's what our press cares about.

Their disappointment and irritation about Jerry's union-sponsored, bare-bones inaugural party in the afternoon is obvious. Near the end, they make a telling observation; telling about themselves, especially:

He doesn't have a press secretary or a communications chief.

Insiders say he is planning to replace the 14 people who have been fielding the hundreds of media requests from television, radio, print and online journalists reporting on the government of the largest state in the country, the eighth largest economy in the world, with as few as three staffers and an assistant.
Oh.My.God. Reporters may have to write their own stories! They may actually have to sit down and their computers and do some research rather than taking pre-packaged story from a PR staff! Oh, the horror, the horror!

Brown doesn't trust the press much. And for good reason.

We'll soon see how Jerry's makes deals. But I don't think he plans to worship at the altar of Bipartisanship, which one of the main things the press latched onto from his inaugural.

Also from the LA Times, an editorial, A Brown, again 01/04/2011, focused on vague speculation about bipartisanship, a word which has pretty much evolved into being devoid of actual content: "Those reforms will take time to have an effect, but they should bend the state toward bipartisanship ..." Because we all know that Bipartisanship is what every voter wants more than anything. (NOT!)

But George Skelton cranked out From the start, Jerry Brown appears to have a big helping of realism 01/04/2011 a decent analysis of the inaugural speech: "On Monday, Brown hit the right tone with the right words — no labored attempt at inspiration, no bull. ... There'll be ample time in the future to criticize details and deeds. But today, after a brief glimpse at Gov. Jerry Brown II, there's hope."

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