Spins and Pins

The back-to-back articles in this week's (23 September, 2002) issue of The New Yorker about Hollywood publicists and the new "bad-boy" star of professional bowling suffer, I think, from a common; both Tad Friend and Ben McGrath are staff writers, and it shows in the bloodlessness of their pieces.

Both articles, after all, are about the art of media manipulation. Bumble Ward spends her day on the phone lying to reporters, parcelling out interviews, and generally trying to impose her clients' very specific agendas on the press, and by extension, the celebrity-obsessed publiuc. Likewise, Pee Dee Dubya's over-the-top persona is not so much a creation of the media as a creation devised for the media: he's been lying in wait for years and is found precisely the right moment to strike to get the pandering coverage of his antics that he wants.

Friend and McGrath's articles might charitably be described as "deadpan," but the pan in question gives every indication of never having been alive to begin with. There's no sense of shock, no sense of awed horror, no sense of amused titillation, nothing at all. Reporters writing about the systematic hoodwinking of their colleauges might be expected to show a little more, well, professional interest, but questions of honesty, of responsibility, even of curiosity about the gravity-defying illogic of content-free sports and entertainment "journalism" are wholly absent from these articles. This is the most boring behind-the-scenes tour ever.