The media have an insatiable appetite to gobble up even the
most superficial minutia and spit it out as hard news.
During the first few months of 2005, spread across every
daily newspaper, tabloid, and pop culture magazine, discussed endlessly on
afternoon talk radio, aired on myriad news and feature TV shows, was the Brad
Pitt�Jennifer Aniston break-up. So well known had the media made the TV and
film stars that just referring to them as Brad and Jen was enough. Media
coverage went into overdrive when Brad and Angelina Jolie starred in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, giving the
media enough fodder to scream that not only were these two stars dating but
that Angelina may have been the one to be cause of the Brad�Jen break-up. Of
course, there was no evidence, but inquiring minds wanted to know.
For a couple of years, the media gorged on the dating habits
and engagement of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, whom they dubbed Bennifer.
This being a Hollywood romance, there was the break-up, followed by the sequel.
Bennifer II starred the engagement, pregnancy, and marriage of Ben and Jennifer
Garner, who had become America�s �cute couple of the moment.�
Still searching for critical news, the media dished out the
secrets of Jude Law cheating on Sienna Miller, Britney Spears� pregnancy, and
the latest Jessica Simpson brain cramp. For more �enlightened� audiences, the
media were all over Tom Cruise jumping onto Oprah�s couch to proclaim his love
for Katie Holmes, and his �Today� show dissing of post-partum depression and
In crime stories, the media had feasted upon pretty young
white girls who were abducted, the Laci Peterson and Bonnie Lee Blakely
murders, and Michael Jackson�s trial on child molesting charges. Media pundits
proclaimed Jackson was guilty, especially since late night comics were talking
about the King of Pop more than they were spewing politics and dirty jokes. But
then the justice system betrayed the media and acquitted Jackson of all 10
charges. Stung by the verdict, the 3,000 on-site reporters, assistants, and
camera crews that had camped out in Santa Maria, Calif., during a mild winter
by the ocean, haughtily packed up and left.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Bush�Cheney
supporters drew media coverage when they showed up at John Kerry rallies and
waved flip-flops to suggest, often correctly, that the Democratic nominee
flip-flopped on his answers to critical questions. But, it was flip-flops in
the White House that got the media salivating onto their keyboards.
About a week after the nation�s 229th Independence Day
celebration, the media again got the story it needed, unwittingly provided by
the national champion Northwestern University women�s lacrosse team.
Beneath a headline that quoted the lawyer-brother of one of the players��You
Wore Flip-Flops to the White House?!��was a well-crafted front-page story in
the Chicago Tribune about the team�s meeting with President Bush. In a routine
group picture provided by the White House, four of the nine women in the first
row were shown wearing flip-flops with their dresses or blouses and skirts; the
others wore open-toe sandals. About half of the other members in the other
three rows also wore flip-flops. �Don�t even ask me about the flip-flops. It
mortified me!� the mother of one player told the Associated Press.
President Bush, partially in response to the casualness of
the Clinton presidency, had established an edict that there would be a more
professional dress standard in the White House. The president, who often wears
cowboy boots, was dressed in a blue suit, blue tie, and dress shoes to meet the
lacrosse players, but didn�t seem to think the casual footwear of his guests
was a problem; after all, his own daughter had worn black flip-flops to court a
couple of years earlier to plead �no contest� to a charge of underage
possession of alcohol. Confronting pedicured toes, few in the White House or
the media noticed that the University of Michigan softball team wore khaki
shorts, polo tops, and sneakers in its meeting with the president.
Reporters, columnists, fashion mavens, and just about anyone
with access to a writing implement or who could dial their favorite talk show
all spoke. Hundreds of local newspapers localized the story by asking residents
their opinion, and business executives their policies. In-depth investigations
bared the facts that flip-flops are comfortable, ubiquitous, and are manufactured
in styles from plain $3 rubber beach wear to $500 Gucci leather-strap and
sequined fashion statements. The shoes the Northwestern women wore into the
East Wing and flip-flopped onto the South lawn were neither.
Next for the media might be investigative features about why
hospital gowns have slits down the back and the medical risks of Condoleezza
Rice wearing high heels. Perhaps they could report about what shoes to wear
while pumping $2.50 a gallon gas, or what suitcases are appropriate when the
president packs for frequent vacations in Crawford, Texas. Maybe the media
could discuss if Karl Rove should wear a toupee to impress the GRAND JURY if he
is again subpoenaed for his role in possibly leaking the name of a CIA agent in
retaliation for her husband�s attack upon the president�s credibility.
Whatever the next story arc is, it will be designed to play
into the public�s lust for all the news that�s fit to scandalize.
Brasch�s current book is "America�s Unpatriotic Acts; the Federal
Government�s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights," available
through www.walterbrasch.com or all
major on-line bookstores. You may contact Brasch at email@example.com.