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May 8, 2006

The Appearance of Elitism

Most journalists are terrified about appearance -- the appearance of partiality, the appearance of elitism. They tend to care very little, in my experience, about actual integrity, beyond appearances.

In deciding to recommend that the White House Correspondents' Association stop holding it's ridiculous annual dinner event, Rem Rieder, editor of American Journalism Review, didn't mention Stephen Colbert's scathing public humiliation of those very correspondents. Colbert nailed the real reason why the dinner is a sham: the journalists that make up the Association are a collective sham.

Instead, Rieder cited concern that the public will get the wrong idea about reporters: that they're elitist.

The problem is that this black tie underscores the notion that journalists are part of a wealthy elite, completely out of touch with ordinary Americans – their audience. (That's ridiculous, of course, given the fact that far too many journalists at smaller papers work for hideously low salaries.)

Is it really ridiculous? Is elitism truly just a product of one's income or means? Can't it just be about one's perspective, or what side one chooses to take?

And while the vast majority of American journalists will never attend an affair like the annual dinner, I suspect most would jump at the chance were they to be invited. If you're willing to wear a tux or gown and rub elbows with the elites, you're either an elite yourself, an apologist -- or, I suppose, a gutsy gadfly willing to tell the elites and their apologists their goose is cooked.

If journalists want to convince their audiences that they are not elitist, they might try using their media, rather than their wardrobes.


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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.