Book the Monkey

John McCaslin
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Posted: Aug 12, 2008 10:19 AM
Book the Monkey

Stewards of the Fourth Estate caution against it: one reporter after another, newspaper and broadcast, being called upon to plaster makeup on their faces, go in front of the camera, and offer opinions — and often biases — surrounding the news of the day.

Whether it's opining on the impact of John Edwards' new mistress or John McCain's old age, flip on any of the 24-hour cable news channels — CNN, MSNBC or Fox — and you'll see that reporters are increasingly interviewing reporters.

When did this popular trend of broadcast "news" begin?

We turn to the popular 1995 memoir of the late TV news pioneer David Brinkley, who recalled the day in November 1969 when Richard M. Nixon delivered perhaps his most historic address on Vietnam.

"He went on the television networks saying he had agreed with the South Vietnamese on 'an orderly schedule for complete withdrawal of American forces from the war.' His speech was carried live on ABC, CBS and NBC," wrote Mr. Brinkley.

"Since he spoke longer than expected, he spilled over into the networks' next half-hour time period. Since network time is always divided into blocks of half hours and hours, this meant the network had to fill whatever part of the half hour Nixon left."

With no time to spare, but with some hesitation, Mr. Brinkley quickly assembled "a few of our own correspondents and an outsider or two to discuss the speech the audience had just heard. On this night, following Nixon, I and a few others got the unpleasant duty to discuss his speech until the beginning of the next hour.

"I can remember nothing of it now and no transcript exists," he continued. "Nobody, including us, really liked filling time this way, but no one knew any alternative. How else on short notice, or no notice, could we fill network airtime? Organ music?"

TWITTER TO VICTORY

It's not your grandfather's "Grand Old Party" convention anymore. It's not even your father's.

To reach a new generation of party faithful, the Republican National Convention has established "social network" sites on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

TOUGH TICKET

In reality, it is the residents of Denver who are hosting the Democratic National Convention.

So it's understandable that the "locals," as they're being called by convention organizers, have been standing in line by the tens of thousands requesting seats for Barack Obama's much-anticipated acceptance speech. And to the Democratic Party's credit, many of them have not been turned away.

The official convention blog reveals that in just one day more than 60,000 Denver-area residents were "clamoring for tickets" to the Aug. 28 address at Invesco Field at Mile High (if you haven't read, it's already being compared to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech), and organizers assure that "more than half of the seats in the stadium will go to Colorado residents."

The remainder of the space in the 70,000-seat outdoor stadium is reserved for the party's delegates and faithful, numerous VIPs from Washington to Tinseltown, and many of the 15,000 members of the media who have obtained convention credentials.

PAST FUTURE

The Democratic National Committee is doing all it can to make Americans believe that any subsequent White House ruled by the Republicans would be only a continuation of its current occupants.

The Democrats have gone so far as to create a Web site to be among the first to announce Republican John McCain's vice-presidential selection, the carefully worded address: www.TheNextCheney.com.