A(cce)ss kissing

A tricky game is being played out every day in Sacramento between the powerful media and the really powerful people they try to cover. If you play the game, expect a certain amount of tension and anger.

For the players on the daily-news side, they’re faced with a gaping news hole to fill every 24 hours, and they need to cover the big political players in order to get subscribers and viewers. The stories must be gotten on a regular, timely basis, or the reporters lose their power to inform (not to mention their jobs).

But the really powerful people (like Conan of the Capitol) know they can set the agenda and order the powerless reporters around, because the governor must be covered by these political-beat reporters. The governor can tell them where to be and then decide what the reporters will hear. Sure, they can ask him questions, but he doesn’t have to answer. What are the beat reporters gonna do, complain? The truly powerful don’t listen to whiny media types—they simply use them.

These beat reporters are torn between the need to occasionally piss off the powerful with negative stories and the need to kiss ass for access in order to tell the best stories. For without access, the beat reporter is trapped into just writing rehashed stories from press releases—that’s not powerful. You can’t get a quote on deadline from someone you just slammed in print. The writer also needs to see and hear the truly powerful in order to produce the best stories. That’s why the press corps is angry about forced pool coverage of the governor’s events. (See “Beat the Press.”)

But, if the powerful leaders turn reclusive and cold, over the long run, the news media can portray them as such, and they lose their power. As in Gray Davis.

The problem with this game, of course, it that the truly powerful have an amazing amount of power over your lives. And it’s not really a game. You should always know exactly what the rascals are up to, and many times, they do hide the truth from us. And that’s why there always will be anger and tension.