Good for media ethics pundit Howard Kurtz for blowing the whistle, however gently, on ABC News’s hiring of Elizabeth Smart as a contributing on-air expert on missing children cases. “Does that strike anyone as odd?” he writes.
Well, it depends what you mean by “odd,” Howard.
If you mean, does it surprise me that a broadcast media outlet, one of the journalistic mutations that hired Eliot Spitzer, fresh off his prostitution disgrace, to headline a current events show on CNN, that puts a giggly fold-out-come-to-life like Robin Meade in charge of Headline News’ morning, and that, like Fox News, chooses its female newsreaders and guest pundits according to their degree of resemblance to Mamie Van Doren or Raquel Welch, would hire a young, attractive blond woman with no credentials other than her role as the victim of kidnapping, sexual abuse and rape, as a correspondent, why no, I don’t find it odd at all.
If you mean, do I find it odd that a supposedly professional news network would so blatantly abandon professional standards just to cash in on the Casey Anthony uproar, however, then…wait, no, I don’t find that odd either. Revolting, but not odd.
ABC spokeswoman Julie Townsend told Kurtz that Smart will appear “when there are missing children or missing-person cases in the news.” She said that Smart’s role will be “helping viewers understand missing-persons stories from the perspective of knowing what a family experiences when a loved one goes missing.”
Now that IS odd, because Smart obviously wasn’t with her own family while she was missing, so has no special expertise in this whatsoever. She also has no professional broadcast experience or journalistic experience. She has a name and a story, and presumably ABC thinks that people will want to watch her because of curiosity and because they will wonder what she will be thinking, given her own horrendous experience.
Just think: if the networks had declined this precipitously in integrity a little earlier, Rodney King might be a CBS correspondent for police brutality cases. Jose Canseco might be on the steroid beat for NBC. Michael Vick would be Fox’s go-to guy for Fox on animal abuse—or maybe they’d hire one of his dogs. Smart’s hiring is the misbegotten offspring of news and reality shows, and it demonstrates not merely complete disrespect for the ABC audience, but for the profession of journalism.
Why would any serious woman journalist try to build a legitimate credentials and experience in an irresponsible and shameless field where implants, infamy and victimhood are valued more than talent and skill? And yet they do.