Campbell Brown’s “Reporting is Worth Cheering:”

September 15th, 2008

Brown’s reporting is worth cheering
By Jeff Simon

There’s a new hero in the world of cable TV news — and no, I don’t mean NBC’s David Gregory, who has just been named anchor of MSNBC’s election night coverage now that former anchors Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews have been busted back down to commentators.

Frankly, I think current journal-ism’s reflex assertion of conventional journalistic formulae over pitiless truth-telling is what is driving so many young eyes and ears to satiric truth warriors like Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

But no, my new hero is actually a heroine — CNN’s Campbell Brown. Let me openly confess to a bit of reflex sexism that afflicts even ardent feminists about her: I had consigned her in my head to cable TV’s vast platoon of “newsbabes,” the ones overrunning cable news like models with briefcases on “Deal or No Deal.”

Well live and learn. While the Republican Party is trying to do its own kind of cunning feminist revisionism with its vice presidential nominee, Brown struck a genuine blow for underrated “newsbabes” everywhere in a CNN interview with a John McCain staffer so rough and bruising that it caused McCain to cancel a CNN appearance the next day.

I saw that interview in “real time” and I was stunned.

Ordinarily I am not a fan of journalists coming on like jackass prosecutors. But Brown’s interview subject simply refused to answer her questions. He kept doing the old political ploy of staying on message, thereby stealing free air time and inflaming the disgust of anyone on either side of the aisle who might actually hope to hear someone saying something.

Brown kept interrupting him and asking him to please answer her questions. By the third or fourth time she was forced to do it, I was standing and cheering her on as if she were a horse running the fifth at Fort Erie. Should anyone ever need an illustration of the ’60s chest-thump “speaking truth to power,” that was it.

A lot of fall season shows intrigue me, but nothing this season has been as great a TV show as this year’s presidential election. First, there was Obama’s acceptance speech outpointing the Oscars and the Super Bowl in the ratings; then there was the ongoing Sarah Palin dramedy, leading up to her spectacular acceptance speech which was some of the canniest political performance art since that hopeless Hollywood mediocrity Ronald Reagan gave the performance of his acting life as a two-term president.

There was the McCain campaign making all the hay in the world out of Obama’s supposedly empty “celebrity” and then his lurch at a VIP choice proved to have a weird celebrity charisma neither he nor his people could possibly have anticipated.

McCain told the world in his acceptance speech we need to stop worrying about who gets credit and just get things done. (Never mind all those things in this world that never get done because credit is improperly assigned.)

So let me leave you with the most brilliant observation I’ve encountered on Palin’s accession to universal American cover story. It comes from John Doyle, TV critic for the Toronto Globe and Mail, who said Palin is the ultimate triumph in America of reality television.

You have to watch “Survivor” and “Big Brother” etc. to know the devastating truth of that. That is exactly what Palin seems like — a hallucinatory, eccentric and wildly watchable scrambler in the world of reality TV, competing for the $1,000,000 price at the end while the home folks cheer on all of their favorite show’s backstabbing, underhandedness, showboating, etc.

Me? I’m now cheering for two people from now on and don’t try to stop me — Campbell Brown and John Doyle.