Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ana Marie Cox

Didn't pay enough attention to this when it was going on, but now that I've read through the whole ugly thing, I'm a little stunned. Her reasoning in defending the trip was pretty shoddy and dishonest, but it's too late to go over that stuff now. What really caught my eye was this:

"To those of you who are worried that I went to the event on my own dime: Time is not the only place in the world where people can publish stories about McCain, okay? I will recover my expenses."

In other words, she either has, or is looking for, a book deal. Now, I have no problem with this, and in fact, she would have been dumb not to do it. The real problem is this: if McCain wins the presidency, her book deal could stretch into seven figure territory. He was counted out, and came back to win, and she was covering it the whole way, plus she has her Time platform to help sales. It's the sort of political Rocky story publishers will pay for, especially if the election becomes a real monumental one that attracts a lot of attention. Which, come to think of it, pretty much describes the election we already have. If McCain loses, maybe her putative book doesn't even get published, but is relegated, instead, to some kind of feature article in Vanity Fair or some other magazine, which would pay her by the word. It's a huge difference, and stakes her in a big way to a certain outcome -- McCain winning -- of the election. And that's just this one book. Once a book like that established her, she's set for life, able to write what she pleases (see Klein, Joe, "Anonymous", and Primary Colours). And this person, with so much riding on the election, is going to be covering it, with her silly, giggly-assed persona, until the end, on TV, in Time, talking with her colleagues, the blog: everywhere she goes, she will have a gigantic stake riding on the outcome. It really shouldn't be allowed: in no other profession would such a gross conflict of interest be tolerated, but this is one that isn't even discussed.

Who knows, maybe Cox is a pillar of virtue, and will be perfectly "fair" (she admits she is biased, even brags about it, but claims that's OK because she's decided she's "fair") between now and the election. I have a low opinion of her, but it isn't so low as to think she would consciously sell herself for money, at least not journalistically sell herself. But who knows what she will do unconsciously? Why should we be forced to hope Cox is a better person than she reveals herself to be pretty much every day she writes another of her teenager-as-serious-journalist posts?