Monday, June 20, 2005

Process Story

This week all the talk in the papers and on broadcast news has been about the Downing Street Memo; who’s covering it, who’s talking about it on C-SPAN, why the mainstream media isn’t covering it, why it took over a month for the skittish media to timorously bring it up in the White House briefing…but nothing about the contents or the implications of said memo and the subsequent memos that came to light other than “well, it’s old news — everyone knew that Bush was planning to go to war anyway.”

So they’ve turned it into a story not about the memo but a story about the story…what they call a “process story.” It’s a very handy way to avoid the issue and get away not only from the details of what did the Bush administration plan in the summer of 2002, but the validity of the source of the news itself. Even those of use who have been blogging about it as a part of the Big Brass Alliance and other efforts have had to devote most of our energy just to get our voices — and petitions — heard. After all, there has been much more important news to cover, like the latest disappearance of yet another pretty woman, the autopsy of Terri Schiavo, or, so help me, the film rights over the story the runaway bride. Quick, get the Pulitzer Committee.

This is not a surpise. It’s easier to write a process story. All you have to do is listen to your cohorts in the press room or read Howard Kurtz rather than actually get off your ass and do some digging or research. Even with the internet and the blogs it still requires tracking down sources, checking facts, and doing real journalism. So you crank out a story about how the story of the Downing Street Memo is slowly making its way onto the mainstream and you do a puff piece on how once again the bloggers are the ones making all the noise, but since they’re not real journalists — they’re just people with cats who write in their pajamas (or whatever) — it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Well, as they say in PR, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. As long as we keep up the story and keep making the points, we’re going to get some kind of result. We’ve already begun to push the right wing’s buttons; they’re now spreading the word, according to Shakespeare’s Sister, that the Downing Street Memo is a fake. Hey, it worked on Dan Rather, and since the public has the attention span of a mayfly, why not?

We must be getting to them. That means we’re getting close. Press on.