Shredding Paris, and my new hero

June 30, 2007

First off, let me confess to my geezerhood.

I have been in the reporting business long enough to remember the days when news, particularly on television, was different from gossip.

Hard as it is to believe, there was a time when the shenanigans of the rich and stoned were pretty much relegated to the gossip columns in newspapers or, if they did something approaching real interest, like getting beheaded in a car accident or getting drafted into the army.

Most of us have been embarrassed by the trend to put anything to do with the rich & shallow on the front page…heck, ANYWHERE in the front section. Britney Spears and her adventures in motherhood, rehab, and efforts to destroy the lingerie industry by showing off the fact that she doesn’t wear any (at least, not while there are photographers around,) was bad enough.

But this whole business with Paris Hilton has taken the cake. You know all the arguments, which basically boil down to “so what?”

We have all had to write (or announce) our share of dopey stories foisted on us by some ubereditor who confuses twitter with journalism. Mostly we grumble, grind our dentures, and go ahead and do it. Principles are one thing, but there is always the desire to keep one’s job.

Enter Mika Emilie Leonia Brzezinski, 39, co-host of MSNBC’s morning program “Morning Joe,” which airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Eastern time.

Last Tuesday morning, she realized that the Goon in Charge had given her a script in which the lead story was yet another froth-and-titillation segment on everybody’s favorite heiress.

The story following that was one about Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana breaking from President Bush on the Iraq war.

You may remember Iraq. More than 3,500 Americans dead, God knows how many maimed and wounded, and probably tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead and wounded. Hardly anybody ever mentions them.

Brzezinski, being, you should excuse the expression, a real journalist, had the novel idea that a story linked to a war where actual people were actually dying might be more important that the Paris Hilton silliness, refused to read the story.

Better yet, she attempted to burn the story’s script on air but was prevented from lighting it by a co-host. She finally tore the script up, walked over to a newsroom shredder, and turned the thing into confetti.

OK, I’ll accept the possibility that the whole thing might have been a publicity gambit for Brzezinski, but I am not so convinced. She is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski United States National Security Advisor under President Jimmy Carter. I think she probably has a pretty well-honed idea of what might and might not be a story that matters.

In any case, I watched the YouTube clip of the newscast’s salient points. I couldn’t stop smiling.

I hope she keeps her job. Hell, I hope they put her in charge.


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