I believe this is what Historian Daniel J. Boorstin dolefully referred to as a pseudo event?the act of creating news just to have news to report. The danger lies in the blurring of the line between real news and empty, artificial fluff.
Exhibit A: The Washington Post recently printed a false story about me: In its Sunday Style section, the Post claimed that I was ridiculed at the Gridiron Club dinner, an annual dinner/roast where a wild pack of journalists gulp drinks and skewer their colleagues.
The Post claimed I was the target of some roasting, to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd?s ?Sweet Home Alabama.? The song has this chorus: ?Sweet Home Alabama, where the skies are so blue / Sweet Home Alabama, Lord I?m coming home to you.?
The Post reported that as part of a skit, performers at the Gridiron club changed the lyrics into:
"Armstrong?s propaganda It sounds so true He?ll tout our agenda When the check goes through?
Funny stuff. Just one thing: the event never took place. The Gridiron had planned to do the skit, but ended up dropping it from the program. This is where things get real interesting. The Post not only reports that the skit took place, but that it was a rousing success: "It was really pretty darned funny, we are told. . . .?
But don?t expect the Post to admit that. They?ve since printed a soft retraction, reporting that "the article incorrectly reported that a satirical version of ?Sweet Home Alabama? was performed at the [Gridiron Club] dinner and described reaction to it. Such a skit was written, but it was dropped before the final performance." For obvious reasons, the retraction failed to mention that the reporter made up an entire skit skewing me. Is it too much to ask for a full attraction? I don?t expect the Post to admit that they are willing participants in the trivialization of news stories. But how about some acknowledgement that they reported false news about me? Anything less is simply dishonorable.
And it?s not like this is an isolated event. A couple years back I set up a series of meeting with Republican Senate and House leaders to discuss how to diversify the party and create more of a genuine give and take about the Republican message in urban communities. The Post pounced, accusing the Republicans of engaging in back door affirmative action. The story was full of sloppy reporting and flat out untruths. At the time I wrote a letter to the editors at the Post, asking them to correct the numerous errors in the story. They did not. I?ll try again with regard to their latest concocted story about me in hope that they?ll do something rather extraordinary-- print the full truth. I?m not holding my breath though.