Monday, October 15, 2007


I have this friend who works in the mayor's office of a large Midwestern city that we'll call Possum Trot. She shares with me stories about what it's like.

Dan's recent post about Steve Kraske reminded me of some stuff she told me about her experiences with the press. She's particularly tuned in to their rhythms because she used to be a reporter.

She's got lots of stories, and I might share a few here, but the main theme of all of them is that almost all of the reporters and the columnists and the editors are wannabe insiders. Actually, I take that back. She says the folks at the daily paper are in-crowd aspirants. The TV people, with the exception of two real good reporters, are too scattered from covering so much territory, too limited in time, and in some cases, too good looking to care about what the movers and shakers at City Hall think of them. The radio people are too smart. And the alt-weely people have too much freedom.

But the daily people, with the exception of two, according to my friend, they all fancy themselves players in the game.

She tells me that politics is just like high school.

You've got the in-crowd, the proverbial football captain and cheerleader. That's the establishment.

Then you got the in-crowd wannnabes in newspaper and yearbook club. That's the daily paper.

They flit about the quarterback and cheerleader, snapping pictures and jotting down notes, propping the in-crowd up as the standard bearers for high school reality. Oh, they might poke at them a little bit from time to time, like when the jock loses a big game or something. But for the most part they are utterly beholden to the myth of the in-crowd's supremacy. And if anyone tries to challenge this myth, they attack. They have to protect the in-crowd because they want so desperately to be the in-crowd. The in-crowd defines them.

Meantime, there's this vast high school reality that they're utterly clueless about. While they're obsessively focused on the dozen or so so-called poplar people, they're surrounded by hundreds of normal kids who are just slogging their way through adolescence. In my city-power-structure metaphor, these are citizens -- the people who are increasingly disinterested in reading the newspaper and, worse, in voting.

Honestly, sometimes when she tries to explain this stuff to me, I get a little leery. It all seems a bit glib and contrived. But she's adament that she's on to something.

I'll try to parse more of what she has to say in future posts.

1 comment:

Shicho said...

your friend is right. "She tells me that politics is just like high school." this surprises you?

look at all your friends, people you have known forever - they are the same as they were when they were kids. sure, bob doesn't squirt beer through his nose anymore (unless he's SURE it will get him laid), but he’s still the goof in the crowd; Mary is more outgoing and sure of herself now, but she still tends to hang out in the kitchen at parties; Billy Bob may not be star quarterback any more, but run out to the 3 dealerships he owns and you will see him calling signals; yeah, I don't dabble with doobs anymore but I still have the same problem with fascism as I did when I ran the underground newspaper in high school...

people don’t change over the years, they become more themselves. and the ‘themselves’ they more become were all initially incubated in a culture we repeat ad infintum in every large and small town in America: are Friday Red Madness days (or whatever they’re called) any different than the high school prep rallies? are inane letters to The Star nagging everyone to “support” the Royals or the Chiefs any different than the school council president urging us to show ‘team spirit’? in fact, are elections (local and national) anything more than the popularity contest they were in high school?

nope – everything’s the same, just writ larger.

it is sad, i grant you. immature. and certainly does not begin to address the countless real issue facing us – our infrastructure (local/national); foreign policy; fragmented consensual reality as a norm on all issues (racism, religion, economics).

But it does handily explain why very little of substance is ever accomplished and, when something relevant does occur, it is usually achieved by ‘other’ directed folk at long odds…