Here’s yet another sign of the cheapening and gradual decline of America’s news media’s values — as checkbook journalism becomes the order of the day for some, and key players in a big news story now make it known that they be demanding bigger bucks if they open their mouths in the future.
At week’s end, the Antioch street where Jaycee Lee Dugard lived after she was allegedly kidnapped as a child 18 years ago by Phillip and Nancy Garrido was swarming with media. Satellite trucks parked in driveways, and cameramen and photographers tromped on lawns and knocked on doors up and down Walnut Avenue.
The report sketches the scene of a media hub – and even has a photo (go to the link) showing how the neighborhood is now one, big instant TV studio.
But here is the kicker — something that is not entirely new but once again shows how the bar is being lowered each time (as it is in political “discussion” these days) and as it becomes lowered what was once considered unacceptable is now acceptable indeed…and will lead to the bar being lowered again:
In the days since, locals who knew the Garridos said they have repeatedly been approached by reporters — American and foreign, print and television — who have offered thousands of dollars for information and photographs of the Garridos, Dugard, now 29, and the two daughters she bore Phillip Garrido, ages 15 and 11.
The money can be tempting for some who live in an area pummeled by the foreclosure crisis and the sagging economy.
And isn’t the following something we all could have expected?
Manuel Garrido, who lives in nearby Brentwood in Northern California, at first spoke freely with reporters about his son’s past. But now he says he wants to be paid. “No more free information,” said Garrido, 88. “Other people are getting paid.”
The elder Garrido said he had received $2,000 from one news outlet for an exclusive interview. “From now on, it’s going to be more than $2,000,” he said. “You’re making big stories, and you are getting paid for it. Here I am suffering, so I should get some money out of it.”
It’s a simple business equation now.
He [the older Garrido] said reporters have been hounding him ever since the story broke last Thursday about his son allegedly kidnapping Dugard from her South Lake Tahoe neighborhood when she was 11 years old and holding her for 18 years. Phillip Garrido, 58, and his wife, Nancy, 54, were arrested and charged with 29 criminal counts in the case.
Concord resident Marc Lister, who knew Phillip Garrido and had some of his promotional business materials, said he sold one of Garrido’s own business cards, featuring a photo of Dugard, to a media outlet for $10,000.
Lister said he does not consider the money a payout. He said his mother, a retired teacher who died in 2000, housed battered women for years at her Walnut Creek home, and he plans to use the money to help the cause.
That’s called rationalization — and there is a lot of that going around these days…from the news media types who see nothing wrong with paying sources to open their mouths (its like feeding the bears: more and more sources will demand payment)…to the news sources who jump through mental and rhetorical hoops to make it sound like..well..an ENTITLEMENT. It’s the same rationalization that causes political partisans to beat their chests in red-faced outrage and decry a political or rhetorical sin on their side, then jump through all kinds of mental and rhetorical hoops to justify or excuse when someone on their political “sports team” does it.
Rationalization is the name of the game. So if this is the way to beat the competition and give readers who demand info and have the right to know what they want, what’s wrong with that? (Media spin). And if you’re in pain or did some good things earlier in your life and the media is making big bucks off someone you know, then why shouldn’t you get a piece of the pie — even if that pie is fetid and decayed due to a growing corruption of values? (News source spin).
Maybe its because America is no longer the land of the Greatest Generation — but, increasingly, land of the greatest rationalizations.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.