What Today’s Broadcast News Regards As “Credentials”

"Yes, yes...journalism degree, experience at a local affiliate, blah, blah...but no rapes? Arrests? Scandals? Sexual abuse? Miss, you have NO credentials that make you valuable as a network reporter! Wait--what's your bra size?"

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.

How odd.

12 thoughts on “What Today’s Broadcast News Regards As “Credentials”

  1. I don’t see the analogy in Elizabeth Smart’s case, Jack. Granted that she has no degree in a school of journalism. But beyond that, what? Miss Smart and her family have been not only closely involved in her case- to include the successful convictions of her predators- but have been called in repeatedly by many news and commentators’ programs. Her intelligence, decency and amazing coherence in spite of her terrible, youthful ordeal has made her a respected figure for others; both those who have suffered themselves or those who want to see an end to this terrible wave of child depredation. Now… if she was being hired for a regular “Suzy Shallow” spot on a basis of her looks, I could understand the objections. But that’s not the case here. I can see where, should another such case arise (as it likely will) her insights could bring some first-hand perspective beyond the conjectures of a standard news panel. It couldn’t hurt, in any case.

    • I don’t see it at all. She is poised for an amateur, but that’s all she is. What insight? If the case was less lurid, would she have a job? She has insight into one case, her own, from one perspective, the one who is kidnapped.

      • The entire Smart family has been active in the field of child abuse and abduction ever since the tragedy, Jack. Nor has she been one to try to capitalize on her fame in the ways that other “instant celebrities” have. I think her character speaks for itself. In fact, for that very reason, I’m surprised that ABC approached her! But again, her job will apparently be a guest commentator on events relevent to her experience. There are a great many of those in a number of fields. I only hope that the need for asking her to appear will be few and far between, given the kind of event that would precipitate it. I very much think that Miss Smart would feel the same way.

        • I have nothing against Elizabeth Smart. But the field is journalism. The best person to talk about this issue isn’t a victim; it’s a trained communicator who can interview, research and put facts into context. Howard Kurtz suspects this is just a way for ABC to lock up Smart as a guest, meaning that she is being paid for interview exclusivity. I wouldn’t put it past them.

  2. I think you are a bit off in comparing Vick and Canseco–after all, they cannot claim victimhood.

    But yeah, f*ckin right on about Rodney King! Only trouble there is that 1) he is male, and male victims don’t count under the rape and victimology theocracy, or anywhere for that matter 2) he was way more useful as a tool of propaganda for white feminists when they were seeking the ear of cops, a wqhite feminist token black man–but they really didn’t give a shit about him, or who he really is.
    But a blonde, raped girl? OOOh, how salacious–and don’t even get me started on Caucasian slavery tropes….
    And who ever said the media has ethics? The whole trend toward qualifying journalism as a ‘professional’ standards based industry is BS.

    • Note that I mentioned three categories, including infamy (the Eliot Spitzer standard.) And I mentioned the possibility of hiring Vick’s dogs,
      Journalism has always claimed to be a profession, and has the ethics codes to prove it. But increasingly it seems like you are right.

  3. I was watching CNN during the immediate aftermath of the Japan earthquake, and they got George Takei in to discuss it. As much as I love Mr. Sulu, that was really stretching it. The man knows nothing of seismic activity or nuclear power, but he’s Japanese! And people love Mr. Sulu!

    Cable news actively encourages those with only a tangential connection to the topics at hand every day, so everyone thinks they have an expert opinion. Now, if Elizabeth Smart were to obtain a degree specializing in criminal or child psychology, her personal experience would make her an excellent contributor to news stories dealing with abducted children. As it stands now, everything that comes out of her mouth is just going to relate to her own experience, and that won’t be particularly illuminating.

  4. ‘I was watching CNN during the immediate aftermath of the Japan earthquake, and they got George Takei in to discuss it.’

    You’re kidding……I missed that, thankfully. My TV is still intact. The coverage of the quake was hideous overall. The Brit tabloids were especially bad, but CNN didn’t do much better.

  5. Frankly, I’d WAY rather watch/see Elizabeth Smart, who seems at least smart, talk about this than EVER go anywhere NEAR Bristol Palin’s talks. She is making millions of dollars every year. Talking about… ABSTINENCE. Are you kidding me?!?!?! She’s making millions of dollars a YEAR, on her own, at what, 20? And it’s all because she’s not only Sarah Palin’s daughter, but the KNOCKED-UP AT 18 daughter. Who, according to what I hear of her book, claims it was an accidental knock-up from one time she can’t even remember. Do any of us know ANY teenager who would think, after knowing what happened to Bristol, that abstinence IS the right choice? I’ll bet more of them run out and try to get knocked up thinking they’ll get a book deal and speaking engagements! Dumbest choice of messenger for that messenger I’ve hard of in a long, long time.

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