While the “Jeff Gannon” story is still bouncing around the journalistic circles, it’s clear that the hard questions about why Jim Guckert, Gannons’ real name, got a day-pass to the White House pressroom for two years, without a legitimate news organization as his employer have not been answered.
As an S.F. Chronicle editorial put it, “It’s hard to say which is worse: That the White House had no idea who it was allowing to be within shouting distance of the president — or that it knew exactly who Jeff Gannon was and why he was there.”
Why isn’t this story being dissected by the MSM (mainstream media) 24-7? I think Dan Kennedy of the Boston Phoenix put it best
Of course, the difference is that if, say, a Gore or Kerry administration had brought in a gay hooker to act as a ringer at news conferences, it would have quickly exploded into the biggest story in the country. Fox News would devote hours upon hours to it. So would Rush Limbaugh. So would the Pat Robertsons and the Jerry Falwells and the James Dobsons. Needless to say, so would the Republican Party. And here’s where the difference between liberal and conservative sex scandals, and how the mainstream media handle them, becomes clearly visible. When there’s a scandal on the left, there is a built-in machine, already in place, to spew shock and outrage on a 24-hour-a-day basis, and the mainstream media naturally cover that. But when there’s a sex scandal on the right, there’s really no one to speak out. Do liberals really care that men are having sex with each other? Or that Jeff Gannon supposedly has been paid as much as $1200 for one weekend for the pleasure of his companionship? To ask these questions is to answer them: no, and no.
The paradigmatic example is the Monica Lewinsky story. You may recall that the investigation into Bill Clinton’s sex life was driven not by the media, but by a $50 million official government investigation and a congressional witch-hunt led by the Republican majority. If the Bush White House really does become embroiled in a sex scandal — and, at this point, it looks like a genuine possibility — well, who is going to push this into the hyperstory realm? There simply are no liberal equivalents of Sean Hannity and Rush. Al Franken? Please. He’d be laughing too hard to take this seriously. And Howard Dean is not likely to position himself as the Democrats’ sexual inquisitor.
It’s clear to me that the single greatest media agenda setter are the right-wing talk organizations. Whether it’s Fox New, Limbaugh or increasingly CNN, if they cover it, the MSM will. If they don’t, it’s a quieter story.
It’s up to all of us to demand greater coverage. Howard Kurtz of The Post has treated this as a blogger story. In his online chat earlier this week he identified the more important questions the Gannon affair raises, but he doesn’t seem to have done much digging to find out what the story is.
And that all comes down to who screams loudest and longest. Here’s Kurtz’ email address. Drop him a line.