Tuesday, July 3, 2007

In defense of Andy Jones (or, why Mika Brzezinski should apologize to her producer)

What if this had happened?

Mika Brzezinski's Blackberry is currently receiving new messages at the rate of about one a minute. Some come from friends and colleagues, but most are from complete strangers. To nearly all, she is a heroine.

'I had one woman send me an email and she told me was weeping tears of joy that someone finally took a stand,' the American TV news anchor says. Brzezinski's achievement was to raise a defiant fist in the face of one of the most powerful forces in the modern world: sin. Working for US cable news channel MSNBC, Brzezinski decided last week to refuse to read a news story about gay marriage.

To the amazement of viewers of the news show Morning Joe, she simply looked into the camera and apologised for the decision to put the gay marriage controversy at the top of news, ahead of an important political story linked to the war in Iraq. 'I didn't choose it,' she said of the gay marriage story. When her co-host, Joe Scarborough laughed at her words, she simply refused to read the story. 'No,' she said, 'I hate this story and I don't think it should be the lead.' Then she put the gay marriage story down and began to read the rest of the script, opening with the phrase 'To the news now...'

The moment was the first of repeated refusals by Brzezinski to read the gay marriage story throughout the show. It has made her a heroine to people across America and around the world. Clips of her refusal have spread like wildfire all over the internet, especially via the video-sharing website YouTube, where the pictures of her shredding the paper that the story was written on have received hundreds of thousands of hits. Many viewers of the clip have also left comments backing Brzezinski - 'Finally, someone has come to their senses,' writes one YouTube viewer. Other media organisations are also now refusing to cover the gay marriage story. At the same time as Brzezinski was making her stand, gossip magazine US Weekly was declaring its latest issue '100 per cent homosexual-free'.

I ask the question - if THIS had been the story that had taken place, would the blogosphere be praising her courageous stand and (the word is used here) "outing" of her producer, who was forcing her to read the story to which she objected?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, read here. Suffice it to say that Brzezinski didn't breathe a word against gay marriage. If she had refused to read a gay marriage story, she would have been criticized by the blogosphere for defying her producer, insulting her co-workers, creating a spectacle of herself, bigotry, and political incorrectness. The blogosphere would demand that she be fired for "censoring" the news. And imagine what Rosie would be saying.

So why is she being praised today? Probably because Paris Hilton is fair game. While I personally am wondering why her extreme mental disorder didn't result in her permanent confinement at Lanterman, you cannot deny the fact that news about Hilton is very popular right now - ask Larry King. In that respect, producer Andy Jones' decision to lead with the Paris Hilton story could certainly be justified. And for those who argue that Iraq is the most newsworthy story right now, what about Darfur? What about the aftereffects of the Asian tsunami, which is a much bigger story than the entire War on Terror?

Yesterday I made the following comment at Michael Hanscom's blog:

If Brzezinski were the managing editor and had the responsibility to choose the stories (I think of Dan Rather here), then I could see her making a principled stand and getting praised for it.

But if Person X is required on the job to do something distasteful or immoral (I think of Daniel 6 here), Person X can certainly refuse to do it, but must be prepared to suffer job loss as a result - especially after calling out the name of whatever co-worker insisted that Paris be the lead story.

Well, now I know the name of the co-worker. His name is Andy Jones. And Mika Brzezinski owes him an apology. Think about it - when you are working with a group of people, you owe your co-workers a certain amount of respect. Brzezinski demonstrated no respect to Jones in their encounter. And those who criticize her male co-anchors should take a second look and see how Brzezinski is treating THEM:

[S]he calls out producer Andy Jones for “not listening” and is seen reaching in to a male anchor’s chest pocket in search of a lighter saying, “give me this damn thing,”

In some arenas, that would result in charges of harrassment. Would you want to work with Mika Brzezinski? Would you want Mika Brzezinski working for you?

Again, Brzezinski shouldn't be praised for defying her employer and insulting her co-workers. At a minimum, she owes Andy Jones an apology.

P.S. Of course, it goes without saying that if Brzezinski refused to read a Kobe story, I would be entirely supportive. :)


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Rhi said...

The thing is that that sort of thing happens on morning talk shows, at least where the lighter bit is concerned--I've read that Scarborough flirts horribly with Mika on a regular basis, and how different is that? Jones chose to keep baiting Brzezinski; the public has the right to know who's producing the show, after all. Heaven forfend we hide this information.

If she owes Jones an apology, he owes her the same. And one to the public, for insulting our intelligence by running the story of a socialite finishing her pitiful stint in jail over a story about Republican public criticism of the Iraq war. Just because Larry King picks it does not make it the most important news story of the day. Or even the most important news story that the mainstream media actually runs. Your logic is decidedly flawed.

Rhi said...

Oh, and do you really feel the need to spam each blog post you can find that supports her? Bit of a waste of time.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

Had to remove my last comment...something odd happened...

In re-reading your post, I find it to be specious. It has no relevance. You are actually comparing a report on gay marriage to a report on Paris Hilton? The two are mutually exclusive. Nice attempt at analyzing the situation.

Stephanie said...

Uhm... did you actually watch the clip in question? Because the co-workers that she supposedly insulted by refusing to read the story piled childish insults on her for so doing. I think I know who needs to apologize here, and she's not it.

CircleFusion said...

You're comparing a story on Paris Hilton with a story on Gay Marriage? That's ridiculous. Discussion of Gay Marriage is an issue about the laws of our land. The Paris Hilton story is just infatuation with a celebrity.

Anuz said...

Thanks for letting us know that you believe the Issue of Gay marriage (Equal rights, civil liberty, whatnots) ranks the same as an Early morning story on a spoiled brat who had to go to jail because she got caught. I mean, next you will be saying that we should cover the Puppy Judging contest over the vote on Iraq war or any other issue that could directly impact the lives of thousands of people.

Anonymous said...

And what is poor benighted Andy Jones's responsibility here? I'm assuming he went to a reputable school with an accredited journalism program, where students are trained to weigh decisions about which story leads, whether on the broadcast, the cover, or the front page. Jones made a feckless choice and insisted that Brzezinski go with it. Zero class, less integrity. The only thing which could legitimately annoy Andy is the fact that Mika has better judgment than he, and isn't afraid to use it.

Ontario Emperor said...

Stephanie: Yes. There has been tons of coverage on the rude behavior of Scarborough and the other guy, but how much coverage has there been on Brzezinski's rude behavior? Apparently the blogosphere has concluded that Brzezinski's behavior is excusable. I don't buy it.

Circlefusion: Actually, there is a very interesting story buried in the Hilton stuff - namely, the question about how mentally ill people are treated in the Los Angeles County jail, and in other jails - but that story was drowned out. It's actually a story that Brzezinski herself might even deem worthy of her attention. See my prior posts on the topic.

Anuz: If it were a cat judging contest, and if Spice were competing, I might agree with your latter assertion. :) Regarding the direct impact to the lives of thousands of people, we each live in our own view of reality, in which things that do not directly affect us become parts of our reality because we choose to let them in. For some people, the "reality" of Paris Hilton's situation is stonger than the "reality" of a war on the other side of the world, or the "reality" of the views of one man thousands of miles away vs. the views of 535 people thousands of miles away. Sure we can say that the Paris lovers are "wrong," but how do we objectively justify this?

Anonymous: See my subsequent posts on "What is news." Although I did not perform a complete analysis, there are aspects of the Hilton story that did fit some of the classic definitions of newsworthiness. Also see my comments to Anuz, above.

Ontario Emperor said...

For those who haven't read the what is news part two post, here are eight criteria that fairtest.org list in their definition of news:


Here is part of the definition of the last point (more here):

"[I]t must be important to a great number of readers. It must have some impact for the reader. Such news will affect him or her in some personal way...."

As I noted in my response to Anuz, above, all three stories (Hilton, Iraq, Bush) meet at least some of these criteria, including the criterion of "consequence." One wouldn't think that Hilton would be consequential, but even if you ignore the issue of mental health treatment in our nation's jails, there are some elements of "consequence" in the story.

Ontario Emperor said...

For those who are interested in exploring the "mental health treatment in jail" angle further, please see:

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Its NORMAL Policies for Dealing with Inmates with Mental Illness (Paris Hilton excluded)

Is Lee Baca Overruling His Own Medical Staff?

More on the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's Mental Health Programs

As you can see, when you dig into this particular story, it starts to rival the "Scooter" story. However, people tend to disregard local stories because they're "not as important" as national stories. Just remember that the local government can do a whole lot more to mess with your life than the national government ever could.