TV Watch keeps a close eye on entertainment business journalists and journalists who appear on TV, as well as those journalists who appear for entertainment value.
But we do not cover fake boring reporters who cover the White House, since there isn’t a ratings angle in this story. The Bush Administration has other ideas.
The reporter in question is Jeff Gannon, who has been throwing softball questions President Bush’s way at press conferences for the last two years. Jeff Gannon's real name is James D. Guckert, who works for a Web site called Talon News, staffed mostly by volunteer Republican activists, who do nothing more than publish White House press releases.
It isn’t known if the White House pays Guckert. But The New York Timesnotes that this is the sixth journalist who hasn’t been honest with their affiliations – some of whom have been outright paid by the Bush Administration.
Fox News still says “We report. You decide.” But most times this doesn’t refer to its reporting – it’s about Fox’s opinion, an entertaining opinion. As a result, more viewers go to Fox for news than any other cable network.
Now, the Bush Administration and the Republican Party, use this fertile ground – the Fox partisan news model -- to slip in and spin its own news. As Bush is not the most verbally agile of presidents, he needs this help.
Did the White House get better coverage and better ratings because of the network and fake reporting? And where does this leave traditional TV viewers and TV advertisers? It leaves them still seeking entertainment and ratings, respectively.
Here’s the ironic rub: In an age of thousands of TV channels, and ten of thousands of blogging opinionists (including yours truly), why has it become more difficult to get news?
The answer is: News is not entertaining, and facts are boring.
This could be why CNN, Headline News, and MSNBC – in some recent revamping of their respective schedules – continue to add softer entertainment news shows. In this soft news environment, why not pay a few real and would be reporters to get your story, just the way you want it?
The New York Times offers a telling thought. It seems the new Pentagon Channel – that’s right, all war, all the time -- has recently been added as a free channel on the satellite Dish Network. Given the obviously propagandistic view, the article wonders, can a Social Security Channel be far behind?
That gets me wondering about private companies. Why couldn’t NBC Universal keep Trio, that offbeat cable network on DirecTV? It’s because, unlike the Pentagon Channel, it needed to pay. No satellite company would let an NBC channel – or any other private enterprise -- not pay. But for a government network, anything goes.
And for some presidential PR, anything goes. This is how a Web-based, unknown journalist who changes his name can get into a high-level press conference with a U.S. President -- in a seemingly tight-security minded post-9/11 world -- and ask easy questions.