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Gannongate or Nothinggate?

Emily Udell

"Is there some truth out there? Yes. Is there a lot of falsehood out there? Absolutely." --James Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, on the Today ShowThere's been confusion abound lately about who exactly is a journalist, and who isn't. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said last Thursday, "In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide or try to pick and choose who is a journalist," after bloggers outed Washington "reporter" Jeff Gannon as a faux journalist with VIP access to daily briefings.While listening to the press conference in realtime on the radio, and Guckert/Gannon asked his over-the-top question…Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work — you said you’re going to reach out to these people — how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?… I almost drove the car I was steering off the road. How many more times would we have heard "Go ahead, Jeff" from the mouth of McClellan if not for the tenacity of bloggers and watchdogs like Media Matters?Will Gannongate (plus Armstronggate, Gallaghergate, and McManusgate) stay in the public eye, and force us to take a critical look at the relationship between the media, big business and the White House? Hendrik Hertzberg rejoins with a resounding "no" in the February 28 issue of The New Yorker that arrived yesterday in my mailbox. He writes:One might imagine that all of this had the makings of a months-long, television-friendly Washington scandal--not as important, obviously, as, say, the Iran-contra affair of the nineteen-eighties, but more so than, say, the flap about the dismissal of several employees of the White House travel office in 1993. One would probably be wrong. The non-Fox cable news outlets began to pick up on it last week; MSNBC even assayed a special logo, "Gannongate." A better name for it, though, would be "Nothinggate, " because nothing is what is likely to come of it. What all the memorable scandals of the past thirty years--real and fake alike, from Watergate to the Clinton impeachment--have had in common is that the opposition party controlled at least one house of Congress, which gave it the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas. If Bush ends up having an easier time of it in his second term than any of his two-term predecessors since F.D.R., it won't be because the scandals aren't there. It'll be because the tools to excavate them are under lock and key.

Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.
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