Jill Abramson vs. N.Y. Times, Round 12
It’s All About the Hair?
Hillary’s Armor: Why She’s So Wary of the Press That She Leaked Part of Her Book
Hillary Clinton leaked a chunk of her own book yesterday, rather than wait for some media organization to snatch a pre-publication copy and data-mine it for juicy tidbits.
Which could still happen, of course.
The excerpt that Simon & Schuster posted from “Hard Choices” doesn’t contain much news, and that is probably by design. But what’s striking is that the book passages went online on the same day as a New Yorker piece in which her longtime spokesman complained that “there’s no such thing as straight reporting anymore.”
If these early signs are any indication, Team Hillary is determined to control the flow of information as she ramps up for 2016, and doesn’t share the widespread media lament from 2008, that the candidate hurt herself by remaining largely inaccessible to the press. Of course, different people will be running her second White House bid, if Hillary indeed jumps in, so that strategy could evolve.
The excerpt of a book that looks to be heavy on diplomatic policy is largely about Hillary’s feelings, perhaps to warm up what in the past has been seen as a chilly image. She is practically a consensus choice in the next Democratic primary, which could boost her confidence level about opening up.
There’s even a video (who needs interviewers?) in which Hillary talks about juggling her State Department duties with the joy of planning for Chelsea’s wedding and the sorrow of her mother’s death.
She writes that she’s proud of her Foggy Bottom record and considers America the “indispensable nation.” But she also makes it personal:
“When I chose to leave a career as a young lawyer in Washington to move to Arkansas to marry Bill and start a family, my friends asked, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ I heard similar questions when I took on health care reform as First Lady, ran for office myself, and accepted President Barack Obama’s offer to represent our country as secretary of State.
“In making these decisions, I listened to both my heart and my head. I followed my heart to Arkansas; it burst with love at the birth of our daughter, Chelsea; and it ached with the losses of my father and mother. My head urged me forward in my education and professional choices. And my heart and head together sent me into public service. Along the way, I’ve tried not to make the same mistake twice, to learn, to adapt, and to pray for the wisdom to make better choices in the future.”
Hillary even jokes about a suggested book title from a Washington Post reader:
“‘The Scrunchie Chronicles: 112 Countries and It’s Still All about My Hair.’”
In the New Yorker story, Ken Auletta reports that “residents of Hillaryland attribute some of the negative coverage to reflexive sexism.” And spokesman Philippe Reines rejects the notion that the candidate and her brain trust were the problem:
“Why, because she only spent ninety seconds with them when she brought them bagels to the back of the bus? And if she spent nine minutes the coverage would have been fair? That’s apparently the takeaway: because she didn’t spend enough time with them and their bagels, they couldn’t be fair.”
It’s Reines who told Auletta that straight reporting has vanished because “it’s about views—eyeballs, clicks. … The Clintons are good for business … With Hillary more than anyone, there’s a premium placed on the sensational, the colorful, the inane, and that often comes at the expense of accuracy.”
Auletta rounds up other strategist types such as Obama loyalist David Axelrod, who said candidates must engage with the media “There is a tendency among politicians to believe it is an adversarial press. And it is a maddening process. Obama used to roll his eyes: ‘This is news?’ Hillary has to let people in.”
My take is this: Let’s say Hillary’s people are right and that the press is petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean to women? Deal with it. It’s like complaining about bad weather. Every candidate has to cope with an adversarial media, and Democrats usually get a break at least on social issues.
Team Hillary had a legitimate beef in 2008 that the press was too pro-Obama. But Clinton is a zillion points ahead in the next primary, and she can afford to take the risk of being more open with the media, rather than trying to stage-manage her candidacy through selected book excerpts and the like.
Jill Abramson vs. N.Y. Times, Round 12
When we last left the paper’s firing of its first female editor, the tipping point was that Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. felt misled by Jill Abramson failing to inform her deputy, Dean Baquet, that she was going to bring in an outside editor with the same title.
Now the New Yorker, in yet another follow-up, has gotten an email that muddies the waters on that charge. Abramson wrote to Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson on Apr. 25, seeking his advice about approaching Baquet on the potential hiring of the Guardian’s Janine Gibson:
“She’s obviously serious enough for me to need to clue Dean into the emerging plan to have Janine be a second managing editor to help push us forward on the digital frontier.
“I expect this will be a fraught conversation. Because Dean is hard to really read. I probably won’t know how he really feels or reacts.
“I’m worried about this and would love to talk to you over the weekend and get some smart thoughts about how to best handle this conversation?”
By the way, Ken Auletta reports that Abramson did not sign a non-disparagement agreement when she left, leaving her free to unload on the Times in the future.
It’s All About the Hair?
I’m not endorsing this column, but as someone who tries to book balanced panels, I was struck by this piece in the Toronto Globe & Mail (hat tip: Jim Romenesko).
“Okay, I confess. I have sometimes turned down chances to blab on TV because my hair was dirty,” writes Margaret Wente.
“A quick canvass of my female colleagues reveals that I am not alone. A top expert in international relations told me she sometimes passes up a television invitation if the show doesn’t do makeup. She thinks she looks awful on TV without it.”
She quotes a male producer as saying: “No man will ever say, ‘Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, I’m taking care of my kids.’ The man will find someone to take care of his kids so he can appear on a TV show … No man will say, ‘Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, my roots are showing.’ ”
Hmm. Could that be the root of the problem?
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.