D.R.: Press vs. politicos
Smithsonian’s November issue has a fascinating little story called “Sharp Pencils.” The article looks at three bestsellers that looked behind the scenes of presidential campaigns:
“The Making of the President 1960,” by Theodore White.
“The Selling of the President 1968,” by Joe McGinnis.
“The Boys on the Bus,” by Timothy Crouse, published in 1973, following the 1972 campaign.
The article’s authoer, Pulitzer winner Jonathon Yardley, explains how coverage change dramatically in this era from “official” actions and handouts that did not stray behind the curtain.
The most enduringly popular, “Boys on the Bus,” exposed the White House pack journalists on the campaign path and how little new ground they actually broke.
Along with Watergate most spectacularly, these books started reporters down a more predatory path. Somewhere in here, journalism also became a profession with college degree nearly mandatory. I say nearly because modern lions such as Morely Safer and Peter Jennings were old-school reporters who learned by doing, neither lasting long enough in college to come close to graduating.
Now some like to pretend journalists are some hybrid between scholars and celebrities. They legitimately are neither. The best are working stiffs with some intellectual curiousity, sure, who know full well that there’s nothing special about them compared to people who actually do things, like, say, plumbers or teachers.
Besides, a species even more prone to self-glorification and greater cynicism has kicked their butts in the court of public opinion. Amazingly.
As the press begain revealing the hidden view of politicians and their various foibles, the public began turning away from the news media. Coincidentally, perhaps. But still interesting.
Most interesting to me is that the central character in these three groundbreaking, or era-changing, books is none other than Tricky Dick ” Richard Nixon.
Is there a more reviled political figure in American history than Richard Nixon? These tell all books had him on the stage.
And it turns out, he kicked the journalists’ butts.
More than the politicians, more than the press, the public is the most cynical of all.
I mean, really, Richard Nixon?