Walter Cronkite's longtime producer Leslie Midgley once wrote that "News is what an editor decides it is." News today is what TV producers decide can help President Obama. News that hurts isn't news at all.
In the last week, network anchors like Brian Williams repeated endlessly that the "Occupy Wall Street" protests are "increasingly resonating." It's the story reporters will declare "isn't going away" - and they're going to see to it. They are using their microphones like yellow Hi-Liter pens to draw attention to it.
Don't you wish journalists would do the opposite on stories they want to drop down the memory hole? You'll never hear "This story has no resonance at all." That could have been said in the brief network attention paid so far to the Obama administration's Solyndra scandal.
Most Americans could still be fooled into thinking Solyndra is a new laundry detergent, not a failed solar energy company that took a half-billion dollars in Obama "green job" loans and went belly up. It's another Enron.
You remember Enron. In the first two months of 2002, the Big Three networks reported a stunning 198 stories on the Enron bankruptcy. Back then, Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe was traveling from one studio to the next denouncing George W. Bush's "Enronomics" and "Enronizing" of Social Security. On CNN, "Crossfire" host Bill Press joked along: "I'm all for politicizing Enron."
That's shorthand for "campaign finance reform." CBS anchor Dan Rather touted "A late-night showdown tonight in the House on long-blocked legislation for an at least partially-meaningful campaign money reform bill. The bill was revived mostly by the shame of Enron."
Enron was also used to kill Social Security reforms. NBC anchor Tom Brokaw led into a Karl Rove interview: "Karl Rove was forced to sell his Enron shares at a loss last year to comply with ethics regulations. Even though thousands lost their life savings in Enron stock and 401(k) accounts, this administration is pressing ahead to allow all Americans to buy stock as part of their Social Security accounts."
Now there's Solyndra. Team Obama doesn't want anyone "politicizing" Solyndra or trying to coin "Solyndranomics." They want minimalist coverage, and that's precisely what they're getting. Since its August 31 bankruptcy filing, ABC, CBS, and NBC have filed a grand total of 15 stories on Solyndra. That's an Enron-to-Solyndra comparison of 24 to 1.
On October 7, the same Obama administration that pledged to be the most transparent ever cynically engaged in the late-Friday document dump. The pile included e-mails showing a top Obama fund-raiser and Energy Department official, Steven Spinner — who had supposedly recused himself from Solyndra's loan application because his wife worked at a law firm representing the solar energy company — persistently pushing his colleagues to approve the deal.
Spinner sent e-mails demanding to know: "Any word on OMB? I have the O.V.P. [Office of the Vice President] and W.H. [White House] breathing down my neck on this....How hard is this? What is he waiting for?"
Even though these e-mails were sensational enough to make it onto the front-page of The New York Times, the network "newscasts" never found a moment over the long Columbus Day weekend to mention it, just as they skipped the earlier news that Jonathan Silver, who ran the Energy Department loan program that handed more than $500 million in taxpayer money to Solyndra, had resigned. When two Solyndra executives took the Fifth Amendment before Congress in September, ABC and NBC skipped that news, too, while CBS offered about 25 seconds of coverage – which carried that smell of "This story has no resonance at all."
The media should be held accountable for their own piece of the Solyndra scandal. They aggressively sold the idea that "green jobs" would help fight off unemployment. The Washington Post crunched the numbers in September: Instead of creating 65,000 jobs, as promised, the $38 billion loan program which included Solyndra could only claim 3,545 jobs.
But no one on TV noticed that, because network coverage of the "green jobs" concept was ridiculously lopsided. "We have gotten the message. Green-collar jobs are the wave of the future," co-host Diane Sawyer cheered on ABC's Good Morning America on April 15, 2009. Out of 52 network stories that mentioned the administration's "green jobs" program, only four (eight percent) bothered to include any critics at all.
It will be a cold solar-paneled day in Hell before the press is embarrassed enough to admit a mistake and correct the record. For them, it's just another day, and another liberal cause. So clueless protests are "resonating," while one of the biggest energy scandals in American history is ignored. Such is the state of news today.