In an earlier time, I might have dwelled more on the international embarrassment to America.
The NSA, electronically spying on our allies, even monitoring Angela Merkel’s cellphone? And the secret efforts exposed by a contractor who wound up fleeing to Russia? This is the stuff of James Bond novels.
But I was too distracted by the saga of Jofi Joseph, the White House official fired for his anonymous Twitter account in which he took all kinds of mean swipes at pundits, politicians and his own administration colleagues. To make it even juicier, the White House is reported to have run a sting by feeding Joseph false tidbits and then confronting him about the @natsecwonk account.
I was just digging into the details when the Instagram photo of Doug Gansler at a beach house party emerged. He’s the Maryland attorney general running for governor who did nothing as a bunch of teenagers apparently boozed it up, saying he was only responsible for his own kid. Gansler probably wishes Instagram was never invented.
My point is that the flood of news stories—delivered by print, TV, blog, phone, Facebook, Twitter—these stories streak across the sky like meteors. Each one burns white-hot and then disappears into some distant galaxy, only to be replaced by another one.
And there is a flattening effect, it seems to me, in which weighty and lighter stories are accorded the same attention in the mediasphere. Obviously the foreign surveillance story, with its global repercussions, is far more important than an aide tweeting that women are fat or ugly or a candidate’s momentary encounter with underage drinking. But the last two stories are great talkers, the sort of water-cooler fare beloved by bloggers and cable producers.
I had the same feeling, as I mentioned on yesterday’s show, about the Nevada school shooting. Although some news outlets did more than others, the horrifying tragedy came and went awfully quickly because “only” two people were killed. There has been so much school violence that this crime was treated almost as routine. I had the impression on Friday that more coverage was devoted to the disclosure that a grand jury had recommended indictments in the Jon Benet Ramsey case in the 1990s.
I popped onto Yahoo and these were the top three “trending” stories:
Catherine Zeta Jones–Michael Douglas says divorce isn’t imminent.
Olivia Munn—what she and other celebs are wearing for Halloween.
Lolo Jones—again makes U.S. bobsled team.
Today it’s back to ObamaCare and the economy and other subjects that occupy serious journalists. Oh, but did you see that Sarah Palin responded to Piers Morgan’s invitation to be on his show with a picture of her huddling over a dead bear and the message “Piers: Kind of busy right now”?
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.