Salena Zito

The marriage is now beginning its long slide into a trial separation, characteristic of what happens when the honeymoon ends.

The political entertainment reflects the curious question of what constitutes celebrity in modern times.

In previous eras, a celebrity earned fame through some accomplishment that revealed his or her excellence.

Now, says Villanova's professor Brown, notoriety alone -- being “known,” whether by appearing on a reality-TV show or in a high-profile legal case, or by blogging on the Internet, creating a cologne or by otherwise “branding” oneself -- is enough.

“It would appear that our 21st-century culture is all about this triumph of the superficial over the substantive,” Brown says. “The ‘show’ seems to be more important than the reality.”

The wisest course for old-school newspaper reporters, she believes, is to stop trying to compete with the blogs: “Analysts and opinion writers are now everywhere, and when newspapers focus on this type of content, they are always going to be on the losing end, because blogs can be updated much more quickly than print editions.”

If reporters focus more on their traditional watchdog role or engage more in independent investigations, she contends, they can focus on what celebrity politicians don't want to see revealed. That inverted power dynamic, she says, would render politicians afraid not to talk to the press, instead of the other way around.

Famed newspaper columnist H.L. Mencken expressed the view that a journalist’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That seems as good a motto for the Digital Age as it was for the Jazz Age.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.