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TV offers up a journalistic jumble

Chicago Sentinel- Sam Miller (Troy Garity) gives Jackie (Mary Hollis Inboden) approval Walsh article.

Chicago Sentinel- Sam Miller (Troy Garity) gives Jackie (Mary Hollis Inboden) approval on Walsh article.

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Updated: November 9, 2012 6:11AM



What a strange and amazing week it was for journalism and pop culture. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers — but I want to make it clear we’re all winners, lest I be accused of bullying.

Crusading hero — or out-of-control hack?

SPOILER ALERT! I’m about to discuss last Friday’s episode of “Boss” on Starz. Skip to the next item if you’ve got it queued up on the DVR but haven’t seen it yet.

I love every lurid, overwrought, brilliant minute of “Boss.” It’s great, juicy pulp. One of my favorite characters is Troy Garity’s Sam Miller, a crusading Chicago newspaper editor obsessed with Kelsey Grammer’s Mayor Tom Kane. But Miller’s questionable methodology went completely off the rails in the most recent episode.

Forget Miller is sleeping with Kane’s former staffer, who’s now a campaign operative for a gubernatorial candidate. Forget he took a promotion to editor in exchange for temporarily agreeing to lay off Kane and his cronies. Convinced Kane lied about his whereabouts while Chicago nearly went up in flames, Miller empties out the petty cash drawer at the paper and flies to a controversial clinic in Toronto. Once there, he misrepresents himself as an insurance investigator, is caught going through a conveniently open drawer containing patient records — and finally gets the truth after confronting a receptionist on the street, grabbing her arm and demanding answers.

Forget about the lack of journalistic ethics. How many crimes has this guy just committed?

On this, there can be no debate

Jim Lehrer is an icon who literally wrote the book on moderating debates (“Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates”). But Lehrer was steamrolled by Mitt Romney and Barack Obama last Wednesday night. I kept hoping they’d go to the bullpen and bring in Jon Stewart, who would have said, “If you guys can’t even adhere to the time limits, how can we trust you to wrestle the budget to the ground? Show some discipline!”

Lapdogs with a bite

Among the harshest critics of Obama’s debate performance: Michael Moore, MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times and the New Yorker, which delivered a brilliant cover depicting Mitt Romney debating an empty chair positioned behind the lectern. Yet there was Sarah Palin on Fox News, repeating her tired rant about “these lapdogs in the media.” Either she’s clueless or she thinks the viewers are idiots. Or both.

Remember when LaCrosse was better known as the home of Old Style?

A week ago, TV newswoman Jennifer Livingston was unknown outside of LaCrosse, Wis., the 128th largest TV market in the nation. Then Livingston went on camera to respond to a condescending email about her weight from one Kenneth Krause — and within days, she was getting more national attention than Big Bird.

Livingston attracted the attention of Ellen DeGeneres and others in part because she pivoted the email into a discussion about bullying. But how is a lone, admittedly jerky email an example of bullying? I’ve talked to a half-dozen women who make their living in front of a camera, and to a person they all said basically the same thing: “If that’s the worst email she’s ever gotten about her appearance, she’s had it easy.”

I’ve experienced everyone from David Letterman to literally hundreds of viewers mocking one thing or another about appearance. Boo hoo. As Livingston said in her own video, it comes with the territory. If you don’t want strangers to comment on your appearance, don’t make your living looking into a camera lens.

A number of female TV personalities, few larger than a Size 4, offered passionate defenses of Livingston, telling us society shouldn’t judge women by their looks. Ask those same women off-camera what advice they’d give Livingston if she wanted to get a job at Fox News Channel or the “Today” show. If they didn’t mention appearance, they wouldn’t be honest.

Last Friday night at an awards show in Beverly Hills, actress Octavia Spencer was asked about the controversy. After applauding Livingston for standing up for herself, Spencer said, “I think we have to be very careful about using and overusing the term [bullying], because we desensitize ourselves to it. Facing coercion or physical repercussions on a daily basis [and being criticized] are two very different things.”

Amen.

Jennifer Livingston seems like a wonderful, passionate person. But from a journalistic standpoint, her four-minute on-camera diatribe — and the subsequent national media tour to soak in the praise — reek of grandstanding.

The whole saga made for great column fodder and passionate talk show and water cooler debate — but it never would have become a story if Livingston and her TV newsman husband hadn’t made the questionable decision to turn it into a public crusade in the first place.



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