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Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Media-generated lists of merit, awards, magazine covers and always seeing what you want to see -classic absurd Leonard Pitts Jr.
Today I have the latest case of some Classic
Leonard Pitts, Jr. behavior, wherein not
actually knowing the facts in a situation isn't
a barrier to his having an opinion.
As predictable as the sun-rise in the East,
Leonard Pitts, Jr. of the Miami Herald sees
race, rather than simple laziness, cronyism,
cliquishness, brown-nosing or any other other
motivation to explain away results about a media-
generated list he doesn't particularly care for.
Not that he could be bothered to actually look at
"The fact that the list is (from what I've heard,
I still haven't opened the links) lily white only
See the rest of the post at Richard Prince's blog,
Journal-isms at the Maynard Institute.
The institute is named for the former Oakland
Tribune editor Robert C. Maynard, who became
quite well-known for his frequent TV appearances
on ABC News' This Week With David Brinkley and
PBS' MacNeil Lehrer Report, under a post titled
Black Pulitzer Winners See Media Lists as
As an aside, please try to think of an African-American
reporter, columnist or editor from west of Chicago
-not named Clarence Page- that you frequently see
on the three Sunday morning network TV chat shows?
Or even an Anglo reporter.
No, really, go ahead.
And for the record, throw into the mix the fact
that both Denver and Dallas have already had
Black mayors while supposedly-sophisticated
Miami and Fort Laudedale have... well, you know,
Meanwhile, the Usual Media Suspects & Guests
from the East Coast continue to dominate that
Sunday morning public policy niche despite rarely
if ever bringing anything new to the party to discuss.
And yet, that pattern merits not a squeak in
newspapers here or elsewhere from the likes
I hate to be the one to break it to you all,
but as has been the case for years and years
in American society, in places large and small,
lists are not complied and awards are not given
based entirely on merit.
For instance, consider the case of the NFL's
Pro Bowl selections for the past forty years or
People magazine's annual 50 Most Beautiful
Neither is very realistic or objective, as in the '70's
and '80's, the same offensive linemen were honored
year-after-year, even in down years, while players
at other positions were honored in a more honest
fashion, based on their individual sack stats and,
frankly, whether they were seen on national TV a lot,
and could be seen, which always explains why more
Cowboys get honored than seems mathematically
It's simple -they get more exposure.
And it's no accident, either.
In that era, certain players were mortal locks to be
named even before the season started unless they
got injured during the season and missed large chunks
of playing time, while a few rare others, like Dolphins
center Dwight Stephnson, were mortal locks
precisely because they actually were that superior
to their competitors, as evidenced by the fact that
the Electors at the NFL Hall of Fame voted him in
during his first year of eligibility, 1998.
I don't know whether it's true or not but I have
heard a story that when Stephenson first became
Hall eligible, Edwin Pope of the Herald spoke on
his behalf at the annual meeting of select pro football
correspondents and past Hall enshrinees, stood-up
and said simply, "Gentlemen, Dwight Stephenson."
Then he sat down.
There wasn't anything else Pope needed to say because
Stephenson was so self-evidently a dominant player
of his era, and maybe the best ever at that position.
Likewise, People's annual best-seller is built to a large
extent on the opinions of a handful of powerful Talent
Agencies and publicists pushing -"strongly suggesting"-
clients of their who have a new film, album, exhibit
or something consumer-oriented coming-out that
the editors at People know will have some built-in
consumer interest or buzz.
They want to capitalize on that so that everyone in
the interaction is happy: agent, publicist, star and
And that goes double for all popular Women magazines
that you see no mater what sort of store you go into,
whether Target, Publix or 7/11, like Vogue.
It's not journalism that decide who's on the cover,
it's strictly marketing.
Above, longtime South Beach Hoosier favorite Rachel
McAdams on January's Vogue magazine in time to
promote her new Sherlock Holmes film.
At Vanity Fair magazine, http://www.vanityfair.com/
they've long taken a much-more political and provocative
sensibility on these matters, by consciously choosing to
have a great editorial mix, with inspired and talented
journalism from the likes of Bethany McLean,
formerly of FORTUNE magazine, and someone who
really knows how to tell a story involving business,
as I've written here before.
But they still want to sell lots of magazines!
Which is why actresses Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart
and Carey Mulligan are on the cover of March's issue,
as seen at top, Mulligan being an Oscar-nominee.
(See October 9, 2009 Los Angeles Times,
'An Education' Carey Mulligan glows with a girl's innocence and
insight and inhabits the role of Jenny in a way viewers will never forget
Plus, sometimes, the magazine editors throw in that sentimental
wild card to remain on good terms with someone who has
been out of the spotlight, for whatever reason.
Like any group of people responding to questions about
a list, or even a survey, some people take it very seriously
and try to be meticulous in their responses, while others,
if the subject is more mundane, answer whimsically
or even in a way intentionally designed to get away
from what the original intent of the list is, and highlight
someone or something else, to prove a point.
Our old friend -the wild card.
I know that, you know that, but not Leonard Pitts, Jr.
I used to see that a lot when I was younger and read
the Village Voice and saw their annual musical picks
for best this and that, their Pazz and Jop Poll, since it
seemed like every reporter and columnists doubled-down
on wild cards.
If enough self-selected people play the new wild card,
often enough, at some point, everyone else in media
is talking about the wild card because they don't want
to be left out of the conversation.
Who are they?
What have they done?
Who are they represented by? (William Morris, ICA, Gersh?)
Are they connected to anyone we already know?
Are they the new "X"?
(X being anything from the media's pick for the next
Paul Newman (Matthew McConaghey) to the next
Italian sex-bomb (
The question never asked is "Are they actually talented
or a coming fad?"
That's entirely beside the point.
At some point, the wild card overshadows the people on
the list that everyone agrees on, i.e. a Charlize Theron
vs. Shania Twain fight never materializes at People
because they're mortal locks.
Fearless prediction: Whenever the fabulous Shania Twain
is ready to come back to the public with a new CD ,
People magazine will be there, ready, willing and able
to give her a cover story where she looks amazing.
(It's just that in her case, she's already amazing looking.)
Because if they aren't, US will be.
The real fights come over the low-hanging fruit, since they
are in the business of getting consumers to purchase copies
of the magazine and reading the ads and patronizing the
advertisers, not deciding whether Leighton Meester
is more deserving of inclusion than Ashley Greene in
being in the Most Beautiful People issue.
At their level, it's whoever has the buggest project coming-up.
Like any media-generated list, it's as weak as the persons
making the list.
And in the case of Pitts, a totally-predictable
Herald columnist who uses phrases like "so-called"
more than all the paper's other columnists combined,
someone who never brings anything new to his
rhetorical soap box battles, that lazy cruise-control
of his has reached the predictable point where his
NOT knowing the facts involved in a particular
situation doesn't preclude him from weighing-in
with his cliched comments, his admission in the case
above that he never even saw the list but comments
anyway, being proof positive of my point.
Happy "res ipsa loquitur" over at One Herald Plaza!
Video: Bethany McLean on the Hedge Fund Era
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