07.18.08 Covers II (or “The Blogger Weighs In!”)


Ok, Dear Reader.  I hear you loud and clear.  Your deafening silence (except for über fans Marty Ittner and Leon Morse*) in response to my challenge questions a couple of days ago, has taught me a lesson.  Never try to off-load the blogger’s job onto the innocent reader.

And what is the blogger’s job?  To opine!  So, opine I shall!

Part 1.  New-Yorker-Covergate

Yeah.  I get the part about satire.  Unlike that very serious young man, Barack Obama, I am able understand humor and even laugh along as myriad** tormentors laugh at – er, with – me.

But I still don’t like this cover.

First, it just ain’t very funny.

Second, as NYT reader Sandra Lanman points out, “as satire, it fails miserably because the target .  . .  is nowhere to be seen.  One is left to assume that the illustration is attacking the two people. . . drawn in the provocative setting.”

Sophisticated, effete, latte-drinking liberals might just understand that the targets are offstage.  But what about the rest of this great unwashed nation? 

Third, though only sophisticated, effete, latte-drinking liberals normally read the New Yorker, this is the cover, and it’s on a controversial topic.  Meaning that that rest of this great unwashed nation is actually going to see this.  And they’ll see it without any perspective on its intent.

Fourth, those off-stage targets are chuckling at the New Yorker.  They not only dodged the bullet intended for them, but incidentally ended up with more fodder for their never-ending quest to deceive gullible Americans and, once-again, get them to vote against their own interests.  Mark my words: this cover will be used against Obama for the rest of the year.

Hey you — liberal bastion, New Yorker!  This is ideological war, you knuckleheads.  And you just handed ammunition to the enemy.  Bad, New Yorker!  Bad!

Thanks to the Washington Post’s Tom Toles for making the point graphically:

Part 2.  All Chandra Levey All the Time

The drumbeat goes on.  Day after day, the Washington Post, devotes gobs of column inches to what Marty Ittner calls “pure, unadulterated tabloid fodder: a sexy intern, a slimy Congressman, a murder mystery.”

A colleague of mine pushes back on this, calling it a significant piece of investigative journalism that might just get DC police to solve more murder cases.

Ittner is right and that colleague is wrong.

Seven years ago, coverage of Levey’s disappearance rubbed me the wrong way.  There are hundreds of disappearances and murders in Washington every year, with large percentages unsolved.  The media cover hardly any of them.  Of course, why would they?  Most of those cases involve poor people of color who don’t happen to have been sleeping with congressmen.

Is Chandra Levey’s life any more valuable or death any more significant than those countless others’?

So I boycotted this story back then.

But it rose from the dead, like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” knife in hand coming to hack away at our local pride in having a somewhat serious newspaper in our hometown.

Now, even if Girl-Sleeps-with-Congressman-and-Gets-Offed Take II is solid investigative journalism,*** it comes at a cost (and not only to the Post’s reputation).  It pushes off the front page one or two other issues of our time that merit attention (such as, in Ittner’s words, “offshore drilling, the economy, the war [and] global warming”). 

The other opportunity cost is that of the Post staff involved.  At a time when journalists are being let go from media outlets around the country, the Post has decided to devote these precious remaining resources to utter dreck, instead of having them investigate stuff that actually matters.

In defense of the Post, I know they’ve got to sell papers in a very tough time for print media.  Maybe this story is how they have to do it.  But it’s another sad commentary on our time.


* Full disclosure, these two über fans are, respectively, my wife and a day-job colleague.  They have no choice but to prove repeatedly that they hang on my every word.  If they don’t, I will make them pay in subtle, but profound, ways.

** This is the first of what will be many, many grammar lessons in LHV.  Note the correct usage: “myriad tormentors,” NOT “a myriad of tormentors.”  To all you Manglers of the Mother Tongue: there is a great ruler in the sky that will rap your knuckles if you insist on persisting!

 *** Of course, I don’t know if this story is great investigative journalism, because I refuse to read it!

©2008 Keith Berner

Explore posts in the same categories: Media/Journalism

6 Comments on “07.18.08 Covers II (or “The Blogger Weighs In!”)”

  1. Kathy Parrent Says:

    Hey, Keith. Some of us aren’t silent; we’re just a little tardy about opining. Just this morning I mentioned that you first posed questions to help frame a discussion about The New Yorker cover rather than jumping right into the mix. As it happens, I share your view that the cover just ain’t funny. It didn’t make me smile and it didn’t make me laugh or even chuckle. Okay, I guess I did wince a little. But good satire shouldn’t make you wince; it should give you an “Aha! moment.” So now we’ve got a peculiar situation where latte-drinking liberals feel smug and superior because they “get” that the The New Yorker is satirizing the malicious stuff seen on its cover. And if we object that it is tasteless and unfunny, we must not “get” that it’s satire. We must be boobs from the heartland. KMP


  2. Keith Berner Says:

    Response to Kathy Parent: I meant no offense, Dear Reader, nor even real impatience. It is all part of *my* brand of biting satire (or is it just plain crabbiness in the guise of satire?). I agree with your comments wholeheartedly!


  3. Kathy Parrent Says:

    Oh, no offense taken. I do get your satire and often find it funny! Even though I actually am a boob from the heartland!


  4. Seth Grimes Says:

    Keith, regarding the New Yorker cover: I just feel like I have better things to think/worry about. Actually, that’s my general attitude toward Obama. His will be a non-Republican administration. He’s the only realistic alternative to McCain. That cover will not materially hurt him nor harm American society. That’s all that matters, thank you, so I don’t feel irresponsible continuing to focus on my selfing, personal, unimportant-to-just-about-anyone-not-close-to-me concerns.

    Regarding the Post’s (re-)handling of the Chandra Levy story, my conclusion is that they think it will sell papers. That’s why they publish, for instance, their ridiculous automotive-review column and tons of other nonsense and fluff. (Do they still have an astrology column?) Print newspapers are desperate to stem circulation losses.

    I came up with a newspaper rating system a number of years ago. How many days of Paper X would it take for me to give up one day of the NY Times? I’d say the Post’s rating is about 3 right now, but hey, that’s better than any other US paper except for the Wall Street Journal, which rates a 2 or so.



  5. Keith Berner Says:

    Response to Seth Grimes: Your blogger doesn’t blame you in the least for not prioritizing ANYTHING over following the day-by-day trials and tribulations of the Obama campaign. Your blogger freely admits that he is a bit obsessed by all these details. Actually, he just finds them AMUSING in a twisted sort of way. But he promises to go to detox soon and then focus on other concerns that, like yours, are of no import to anyone else.


  6. Kathy Parrent Says:

    I know I’ve spent way too much time thinking about that darn New Yorker cover. Let me wrap up my ruminations by sharing some doggeral I wrote to the tune of “It’s a Wonderful World.” This is my answer to those who say you’re a dufus if you thought the New Yorker missed the mark.

    A Wonderful World of Satire
    By Kathy Parrent
    (with apologies to Cooke/Alpert/Adler)

    Don’t know much about irony
    Don’t know a lot about Daumier
    Don’t know much about The New York Times
    Don’t know lots about The New Yorker I took
    But I do know what makes me laugh
    And I know that if that cover was a hoot
    What a wonderful example of satire it would be!

    Now I don’t claim to be a New Yorker subscriber
    Though I used to be
    ‘Cause maybe by being a New Yorker subscriber, baby,
    I could see the wit and wisdom in it!

    Don’t know much about irony
    Don’t know much about Daumier
    Don’t know much about The New Yorker I took
    But I do know what makes me laugh
    And I know that if that cover was funny
    What a wonderful example of satire it would be!


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