I’m trying to locate some of the critics of “Dancing With The Stars,” many of them professional Palin-haters from the media’s left, who screamed of the injustice when Bristol Palin was chosen as a competitor on the popular has-been, D-list, fat-celebrity-looking-for- a-Jenny Craig-gig TV dance show. Remember that? I want to ask them why, if it bothered them so much for the talentless, dance-challenged Bristol to be elevated over the likes of Eve Plumb (“Jan Brady”) or Phyllis Diller or Joey Heatherton (Oh, go look her up!) for pop trash exposure for a few weeks because she has a famous mother, how they feel now about NBC hiring Chelsea Clinton as a full-time news correspondent.
I’ll tell you how I feel: it’s offensive, unfair, and an insult to just about everyone, but NBC’s own profession most of all.
I have nothing against Chelsea; I met her once, and she is a polite, friendly young woman In fact, I think she is the best argument against my unease about the character of both her father and mother: they obviously did an excellent job of parenting. But Chelsea Clinton has as much right to leap over the thousands of young professional journalists who have worked and trained for such a job and would gnaw off their toes to get it as Bristol Palin would have being added to the Rockettes.
You see, “Dancing With The Stars” is for amateurs, or at least amateur dancers. Bristol, or Chaz Bono, or Nancy Grace weren’t taking paychecks away from the many aspiring professional dancers who live from audition to audition. Chelsea Clinton, however, is taking a job away from someone who needs it (Chelsea says she’ll be giving her salary to charity–I guess that makes it all right, then?), and doing it to someone who beyond any question could do the job better than she can.
Unless, of course, part of the job is to allow NBC to suck up to Bill, the Secretary of State, and the Obama Administration…which I suppose it is. NBC has done this before, with Republican kids: Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of President George W. Bush, is a correspondent for NBC’s “Today” show, and Meghan McCain, daughter of John McCain, is a contributor to MSNBC. None of them got their jobs on merit; indeed, if you have ever tried to read Meaghan’s McCain’s prose in her periodic web postings, you will be struck by the sordid injustice of the practice, and its implications for the state of journalism generally. Do hospitals let presidential sons and daughters take a crack at heart surgery? Do NFL teams just install a new quarterback if he’s the offspring of a power-broker? Do voters elect representatives and senators just because they’re related to someone who has distinguished himself in elected office?
Wait, take that last one back. They do.
But we all know that the political process lacks integrity or regard for real skill, experience and proven ability. Isn’t journalism supposed to be a profession? Isn’t that what the reporters and talking heads say when they puff themselves up and deny that they are sloppy, biased, or dishonest, because, dammit, they are professionals?
No they aren’t. A profession insists on credentials and qualifications; a profession has standards and pride. A profession has self-respect. A profession that installs a young woman in a plum job purely because of her last name, with no indication of blinding talent that would compensate in some measure for the superior experience and skills of her many non-celebrity competitors has no self-respect, and a profession that expects the public to believe that such a move is anything but blatant sucking up to power has no respect for us.
At least ABC could make a plausible argument that Bristol Palin increased ratings. Chelsea Clinton will increase ratings? Tell me another: the Clinton clan isn’t that big. The networks know what kind of young female correspondents increase ratings, and they tend to be blonde, gorgeous, and could give their reports in bikinis without embarrassing themselves. That’s unfair too, but every one of those cookie-cutter broadcast babes has more journalism skills and experience than Chelsea Clinton.
And Bill Clinton has the gall to say that he sympathizes with the “Occupy” movement, because the rich get all the opportunities, you know, and the 99% can’t find jobs. Well, that’s Bill. If there’s one thing he has always been, it is shameless.
[Update, 12/13: Chelsea made her TV debut yesterday, and the critical consensus was that she looked inexperienced and was boring. But Bill and Hillary were proud, and that’s all that matters to NBC, isn’t it? The media suck-up continued, however, with comments about how, given her complete lack of experience, she did “pretty good.” But that’s not the standard for professionals in any profession. You either can do the job at a professional level or you can’t. Clinton didn’t.]