Saturday, October 31, 2009

Making the News

With all the battles facing the Obama administration on issues from health care to Afghanistan, you would think they would have little time to squabble with Fox News. Of late, though, they've pursued all out warfare with the network as White House Communications Director Anita Dunn called Fox "opinion journalism masquerading as news," while Senior Advisor David Axelrod said Fox is "not really a news organization." It probably doesn't make a lot of difference in the grand scheme of things, but even some Democratic loyalists are starting to grouse that they have more important things to do than poke Glenn Beck with a stick, however satisfying that might be.

Perhaps they should follow the example of Ronald Regan, and ignore the media all together. Or do as the last President Bush did, and dismiss the national outlets while granting interviews to every local morning show from "Good Morning Tuscaloosa!" to "Wake Up Fargo!" And if that fails, at least make it entertaining by getting a William Safire protégé who can create such ripostes as "pusillanimous pussyfooters", "nattering nabobs of negativism" and "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history". Say what you will about the man's politics, he sure could alliterate.

Better yet, they could take a page from the playbook from one of the most formidable media outlets in the world. The BBC may have reach, Tass may have size and Karai National Radio can claim the title of "THE Voice of Papua New Guinea." But if you want to not just make the news but report it on your own terms, there is no better master at it than Kim Jong Il's own in-house publicist, the Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, known affectionately by their Twitter feed of @kcna_dprk.

Granted, the department doesn't have a whole lot of competition in the super secretive state, and so their byline can be described not as "all the news that's fit to print" but rather "all the news that there is to print." Still, if you read their ongoing feed, they have writers that know how to make silk out of a sow's ear... literally.

Take this dispatch from just last week. Titled "Kim Jong Il Visits Newly-built Pig Farms," it turns a little local meet and greet into the equivalent of a fireside address on... well... pigs. It starts "General Secretary Kim Jong Il gave field guidance to the newly-built September 26 Breeding Pig Farm and October 22 Pig Farm." (Yes, they need to come with some snappier names than just the day the place was built). He gave out some nice attaboys: "He was very pleased with the fact that it has become possible to hand another structure for the eternal happiness of the people down to posterity." And then he brought it home with this rousing closer: "Saying that the construction of this modern breeding pig farm has opened a bright prospect for radically increasing the pork production, he called upon all the sectors and units to raise pigs in a big way."

And so it goes. No sleeping on the job for these scribes; they keep up a steady drumbeat of upbeat stories. Just a few days before, his far ranging knowledge was showcased when this one hit the wire: "Kim Jong Il Provides Field Guidance to Salmon Breeding Institute." Likewise, they have prominent stories on the publication of his latest book in Russia and Nigeria, entitled "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea Is a Socialist State of Juche with Invincible Might." And they even highlight his leisure activities as well: "General Secretary Kim Jong Il enjoyed music skit ‘Our Dear Ones Have Become Heroes' together with servicepersons."

But of course, you have to deal with the critics. And so rather than make the boss take them on himself, they let the people have their say, and report it with this headline: "Revenge-vowing Meeting of Young People Held." According to the official unbiased report, "Reporter and speakers at the meeting recalled that after provoking a war of aggression on the DPRK the U.S. imperialists had massacred people without distinction of age or sex in the most brutal way that would make even beasts blush with shame."

In that light, a little disgruntled prattling from the loyal opposition of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity hardly seems to move the meter. So if Valerie Jarrett wants to provide real counsel to the president, she might tell the White House spin machine to give up on interviews with The Times and the forget the Sunday talk shows, and focus on their press releases. After all, how can you not get mileage out of a feed that starts, "Kim Jong Il Gives Field Guidance to Central Tree Nursery and Ostrich Farm."


Marc Wollin of Bedford will be guidance giving this kitchen dinner Thursday. His weekly feeds found can be in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inqurier.

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