January 29, 1999 - Monica wins one on the Press

So, here is the standard drill for covering the Monica story. Rule number one - WE MUST BE LIVE!!! Rule number two - video is like fish, it has to be fresh to be good. So, what we wind up doing is hearing (or postulating) that somebody will be coming into or out of a certain building. We send out satellite truck, and a crew or two, and go up on a satellite and wait. And we wait. And eventually something happens that seems to be a big event. Which would be that person walking in or out of a building or car.

Today we were waiting for the Senate Sergeant at Arms. He is the man delivering subpoenas to depose Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, and Sidney Bluementhal. Naturally we decided that the subpoena would be delivered to Monica's attorneys, and this would make very compelling footage of the inner workings of a Senate trial, live for the world to see.

With everyone in place, the wait was one. Our reporters on Capitol Hill told us the vehicle would be a blue Grand Marquis, with a black Landcruiser escort. United States Senate plates "81." Up and down Connecticut Ave, and down the one way L street, all eyes awaited "Car 81," hoping to be the first to see it and the first to have it live on air.

And after about 6 hours people started to grumble. There were rumors that the subpoenas had been botched, the wrong names placed on them, and the Sergeant at Arms had returned to the Capitol to have the documents redone in a most proper fashion. And after another hour or two the rumor died as the truth became known to us.

Monica's deposition would never be delivered to her lawyer's office. A hand over point had been prearranged, so all could avoid the killing stare of the camera lenses awaiting them on Connecticut Ave.

The media had been duped.

Now while this is somewhat embarrasing for the media, and very frustrating for those who had spend an entire day waiting for a non event; but it illustrates an important fact. The fact is none are innocent in this great charade of Monica.

The press is often indicted for dragging this story out, for giving it too much coverage. Every appearance must be live, ever word and thought recorded and analyzed. Every meaning dissected to find a deeper one.

But the duping of the media today shows that if the players on this stage want the currtains drawn, it is easily accomplished. The savvy of their media relations gurus is proven in that noting appears to be staged - even to the media. Monica arrives in a torrential scrum of photographers. The girl could have gone in through the back, or come in on the loading dock in the back of a truck, or she could have gone to a different hotel all together. The fact of the matter is that the press is used as a courrier, carring messages of image and nuance between the two factions struggling with an ugly situation. The press is used jsut as much as the press uses others.

The fourth estate has become no longer an exclusive club. It is a free fire zone, where 10,000 fewer viewers becomes a large financial loss, and an easy story means savings for the newsgathering budget. And like the ether of the uuniverse, unseen media experts subtlely guide the lenses to what they want to been seen.

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