The week-long retreat we just had in Jersey City was almost a bust — saved at the last moment by you-know-who, the myself who must not be named.
Pinch’s topic was “Making news where there is none.” The theory: if nothing is happening in the world to further our political agenda, we just make it up. Pinch and Keller called it “imaginative non-fiction” and called on all of us to do our share. “We live in a dog-eat-dog world,” Keller told the two dozen journalists handpicked to attend the event, “so now is not the time to go vegan. So. What dog do we eat?”
Silence, of course. Pinch was looking all concerned-but-confused, the way he gets when his daddy has to explain the stock market to him.
Finally, I saved Bill’s butt by explaining how it’s done. “It’s what I call ‘The Real Moscow Rules’–you take a news story that isn’t playing right, then inject it with improved ‘reporting’ until you get what you need. Think of it as making an omelette, then adding more eggs.”
Before I got to the end of my sentence, David Herszenhorn is waving his hand like a drowing man. “Ooo! Ooo! Let’s use the kid who delivered the Dem radio address asking for more tax money to pay for lower-middle-income kids’ health care! I talked to his people. He’s free.”
The Democrats had been smart to use the perfectly-cast boy (he looks like Peter Billingsley in A Christmas Story, for chrissakes!). I mean, cute kid, car injury, who could do better? We all waited for a week–but it hadn’t really gone anywhere. “It just wasn’t delivering the pathos-payoff,” Herszenhorn told me later. “So I’m going, ‘How do we get the Elephants to trample the child?’ I’m like, ‘Easy! We wait until somebody on the right questions the kid’s credentials — and presto! All Repubs are child-abusers!”
Did it work? And how! We played it mock-serious in the paper — it was a “political memo” under a hed reading, “Capitol Feud: A 12-Year-Old Is the Fodder.” And then we ship it under the hed “Hurt Boy at Center of Political Firestorm,” which is how our drones at AOL and elsewhere run it. AOL loves firestorms. In fact, just to make sure their busy, discerning audience didn’t miss the message, AOL front-paged it this way:
He Spoke for Democrats
Critics Target His Family
It is true that the only “attacker” David could come up with was Michelle Malkin (the rest were a bunch of unnamed “conservative bloggers”) — but Malkin certainly does have a blog and she no doubt is a Republican, so there you go. As David noted, “Republican opponents quickly accused [Democrats] of exploiting the boy to score political points.” Shameful!
We are so on top of our game right now. Never been more proud to carry the Times‘s card. Even the stock’s back up above a double-sawbuck. If it hadn’t have been for that stupid teen-suicide wanker in Cleveland shooting up some no-name high school for nerds and stealing the lead (except at AOL, where they at least stayed on message–if only their users could read), we’d have scored a clear touchdown with this one. As it is, we’ll take the field goal. Next week, we’ll spike the kid.
Word is, David’s now got the Pulitzer for imaginative non-fiction in his pocket. That’s where I keep mine, as a matter of fact!