Let's say you're an opinion writer, and you really, really want to write that Donald Berwick, the new head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, is a communist. Sure, he's not actually a communist, but why should that stop you? You can try taking some remarks he made about Britain's National Health Service out of context to falsely portray him as a lover of everything you don't like about the NHS, but that only gets you so far.
We've been hearing a lot of those lately, from inconvenient tweeting to being mean to Matt Drudge in private e-mails. But here's a good one, Romanesko: a few people working for KARK, an NBC affiliate in Little Rock, were fired after they made a video spoofing the life of a local TV reporter. In the video, reporter Pete Thompson complains about his crappy job and hopes to get a better one in Miami. "It was hot as shit outside," he says in a voice-over. "At least in Miami they have beaches.
I often decry the cynicism of the press corps -- heck, I did it in my last post -- but allow me to make the case for some more cynicism in one particular case. Today, Slate editor Jacob Weisberg, long a big fan of Sen. John McCain, washes his hands of the former presidential candidate, while still managing to fit in his column nearly all the tropes that made coverage of McCain so maddening for so many years. There's the gratuitous mention of McCain's POW past, lest we forget for a moment that what McCain endured 40 years ago makes him more honorable than the rest of us.
One of the unenviable tasks of the professional spinner is not only to put all developments in the best possible light for your boss or your side but to express optimism so boundless it often becomes inane. "You bet," says the press secretary for the candidate trailing by 20 points, "we're going to win this election!" "The congressman will be vindicated when all the facts come out!" says the spokesperson for the guy caught with a freezer full of cash. Journalists expect this, so they never go too hard on the spinner. After all, he's just doing his job, and we all know what the parameters of that job are.