By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
10:22 AM EST, December 27, 2012
Remember all the big, high-sounding media talk right after the massacre at Sandy Hook about how maybe now we will have a "national dialogue" about guns? Remember how many members of the media vowed to put aside their own little, selfish, partisan agendas and get serious about making this a safer and saner country for our children?
Well, here we are 12 days out, and what's that big media conversation on guns about?
Whether or not "Meet the Press" host David Gregory broke a law by waving an empty ammunition clip on the air Sunday during an interview with the NRA's Wayne LaPierre and how many people have signed petitions to deport CNN talkshow host Piers Morgan for verbally insulting any gun advocate foolish enough to come on his joke of an interview show.
Could the media be more pathetic?
You would think we would have touched bottom on Dec. 14 when for more than six hours, we filled the Web and airwaves with false information and images about the perpetrator of this horrific crime.
The wrong Lanza brother. Incorrect information about the shooter's mother teaching at the school and her students being the ones who were killed. More false reports reports that the killer was the father of one of the kids in the school. And on and on, world without end amen.
And some sites, like Slate, which linked to the Facebook page of the wrong person as killer, couldn't even be bothered to issue a proper, precisely-worded retraction.
But no, we seem bound and determined to see how low the media can go before this year of pitiful media performance ends.
Honestly, I have tried to avoid both the Gregory and Morgan stories. They are just so exploitative and debased.
Both hosts have serious ratings issues. And Morgan has a new boss in Jeff Zucker who just left a job where he created a daily talk show for one of the finest interviewers on TV, Katie Couric. No one has to tell Zucker about everything that's wrong with Morgan as Larry King's replacement.
Nor do I want to beat up on Gregory in this piece. I am big fan of his executive producer, Betsy Fischer Martin, She puts together a strong Sunday morning show week in and week out, which is not an easy thing to do.
But Gregory himself has not managed to come near winning the kind of journalistic respect and ratings dominance that his predecessor, Tim Russert, did, and he's had plenty of time to establish himself. NBC News has to wonder if it is ever going to happen.
What I'm saying here is both of these hosts have reasons for going the hotdog route and exploiting the post-Sandy-Hook situation to try and gain attention.
Whether or not Gregory broke any law in waving around an empty ammunition clip on TV, it is not all that much different than Joe McCarthy waving around a piece of paper before the newsreel cameras in Wheeling, West Virginia. It's cheap theater, and should be below a Sunday morning public affairs host on any network or cable channel that purports to be providing news, information, analysis and reasoned discourse.
As for Morgan, he has been saying outrageous stuff and attacking anyone he thought he could get away with attacking forever. Yes, he seems to have stepped it up since the new boss was announced, but that's the way personality types like Morgan behave: They try to bully those below them and kiss up to those above. He's at a point in his tenure at CNN where being hated is better than being ignored -- at least, it's something. If only he could get hated enough to make a dent in the ratings of Fox News as he brashly promised he would when he was named to succeed King.
But forget Gregory or Morgan. What's wrong with all of us who write about whether there are 58,000 or 68,000 or 78,000 signatures on petitions to deport the CNN show host -- and whether Gregory is really on vacation or not this Sunday?
Is this the big discussion about guns promised by all the media types who said how deeply they felt the grief of the parents in Newtown?
No wonder so many in the public hold us in such contempt.
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