Anthony Weiner Media Coverage Becomes the Latest Dick-Centric Weinergate Angle

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As interest in Anthony Weiner's penis and the dirty messages that brought it out to play begins to wane, we focus instead on the media coverage of Anthony Weiner, thereby proliferating Anthony Weiner coverage. Hm! It's a conundrum, especially for those who go on television to proclaim, "The degree of piling on: the way it hijacks cable news, the way it hijacks the morning shows, the way it is all over the Internet says to me that we are more interested in covering salacious topics than matters of the economy, on matters of war and peace," while simultaneously writing for a news organization doing just that. Oh, hello there -- Howard Kurtz, is that you? Why yes, it is. More on this Weiner-centric balancing act in Press Clips, our daily media column, as well as news bits on New York magazine and the Wall Street Journal's shrinking local circulation.

Weiner Fatigue: Unsurprisingly, Anthony Weiner accounted for 17% of news coverage for the period from June 6-12, according to the News Coverage Index of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That's the fourth most unavoidable news story starring an elected official since January 2007, behind Rod Blagojevich's Senate seat for sale, Eliot Spitzer's prostitutes and Larry Craig's "wide stance."

The economy and the Middle East each accounted for 11% of news, according to the same report, with Weiner also earning the honor of "top newsmaker" above Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo sheds some light on how one intelligent editor handled the story, which some have argued shouldn't even be a story at all. "We've hardly ignored the Weiner story," Marshall admits. "We've written a bunch of pieces about it." Marshall told his staff:

Obviously this is a story. And in some ways a great story. And we want to keep our readers up on every detail of whether he's going to resign, what factual claims he makes, etc. But key to all of our coverage of every story like this that we've ever been on is this. We cover the story, cover every last detail without ever losing site of the fact or letting our readers lose site of the fact that this is fundamentally a moronic story. There's no deeper issues. No broader anything it gets to. This is a congressman with serious impulse control who's sending muscle shot and maybe penis shot pictures to women on the internet.

It's just part and parcel of the ridiculousness of politics and public life in America. We can cover every part of it and not ever lose site of that basic fact. Which a lot of people will.

Howard Kurtz, the former media critic for the Washington Post and currently the Daily Beast's Washington bureau chief, played the scold instead and as a result gets called a "hypocrite."

The Atlantic Wire writes:

Kurtz the media critic is simply aghast at the excesses of the political press corps. Kurtz the D.C. bureau chief is part of a web site that has covered every tiny incremental advancement of the Anthony Weiner story, including a running slideshow of Weiner's every shirtless and semi-nude photo and a story about the "pun-filled responses" titled "Weinergate's 9 Best Moments." It would seem something would have to give.

"I am not in charge of the site's Weiner coverage," he told the Wire, "but I wouldn't deny for a second that The Daily Beast has aggressively jumped on this story." The above links say otherwise.

Kurtz added reasonably, "Each media outlet may be able to justify its own level of involvement, but the combined effect - television, print, online - becomes hugely out of proportion to the story's importance." But as is pointed out, he also contributed to the flood before accepting an opportunity to shake his head at it on national television.

And that's the paradox with stories of this nature: it's our job to acknowledge them -- lest someone
do it more stupidly -- but as Marshall noted above, the important part is perspective.

The Big Time: Deadline is reporting that New York magazine will be represented by ICM "to broaden its reach in Hollywood." The goal is options for articles that hopefully turn into film deals. ICM counts more than 30 such deals for the New York Times since joining forces with the paper. Let us be the first to vouch for Travis the Chimp as a future Oscar winner.

Tough Town: We're a notoriously change-hating crowd, as the Wall Street Journal has learned. Since debuting the Greater New York section, which started out by taking shots directly at the New York Times, the Journal's print circulation has actually fallen, Ad Age reports.

On March 17, 2010, they counted 224,165 New York area readers, but as of March 23, 2011, that number is 216,421.

Rupert Murdoch is hoping they all just switched to The Daily.

Um: Fox Business host Eric Bolling said he "got a little fast and loose with the language," when he said Obama was hosting "a hoodlum in the hizzouse." Sit down, man.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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