Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Media Turns on Chris Christie

Chris Christie hasn't always been kind to the news media although he has often proved adept at manipulating it to his advantage.  Now, things seem to be falling apart as the local news media - which in New Jersey includes the New York Times and principal network affiliates - seems bent on digging out as much dirt on Christie as possible.  Of course, the Democrats are only to happy to help in the effort and are generating plenty of sound bites to spur the media onward.  The irony, of course, is that the entire "Bridgegate" debacle could have been avoided.  The Daily Beast looks at the growing friction between Christie and the media.  Here are excerpts:

For Chris Christie, the national spotlight has always been just across the bridge.
It’s about an hour’s drive from the Trenton statehouse to the studios of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where hosts refer to the New Jersey governor as a “friend” of the show — or to David Letterman’s couch, where he famously ate a doughnut before all of America. The New York Times is considered one of the local papers in the Garden State, and Manhattan’s tabloids have devoted significant attention to Christie’s theatrical politics and outsize personality.
For four years, such proximity was a boon to Christie’s political ambitions, raising his national profile ahead of the 2016 presidential contest and affording him the sort of attention provincial politicians elsewhere in the country could only envy.

Then, it backfired: In the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, Christie has felt the wrath that can only come from having the unrelenting mass media universe in your backyard. The anchors, editors and reporters who once marveled at his brash style or gently mocked his girth have now turned to scrutinizing issues of far greater significance — including whether the presumptive presidential front-runner is even fit to govern his own state.

The avalanche of press isn’t due to proximity alone: Christie’s larger-than-life persona has played a significant part in his relationship with the national media as well.
The proximity Christie once enjoyed to the center of the media universe now seems like a cruel joke. To wit, the Bridgegate emails released last week by the New Jersey Legislature show the vice chairman of the Port Authority Board claiming that Wall Street Journal reporter Ted Mann had been “instructed to sniff out this story by his editors who were stuck” in the traffic caused by Christie’s aides. (Mann later said his editors “take the train” and that he did not know where the vice chair’s comment came from.)

“I think there’s some old reporter’s maxim to this effect — or I think I recall hearing it once in some newsroom: ‘Tomorrow’s front page is whatever the managing editor drove past on the way to work,’” said Mark Leibovich, the New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent and author of “This Town.”
For days, Christie has been lampooned on the front pages of the New York City tabloids (the Daily News declared him “pathetic”) and was even featured on the cover of The New Yorker as a little boy playing in traffic. Needless to say, late-night hosts like Letterman, Jimmy Fallon and Jon Stewart — all of whom are based in New York, and all of whom have had Christie on their respective shows — are having a field day.
Whether Christie can weather the Bridgegate storm will depend on several factors, and perhaps most significantly on what revelations come out in the days and weeks ahead. But given his political ambitions, his personality and his proximity to New York — a powerful trifecta — there is no doubt that the story, however it unfolds, will continue to dominate headlines.

“There are going to be tons of stories like this — ‘Christie sharp elbows’ stories, Christie retribution stories,” Heilemann said. “Proximity was Christie’s blessing; now it’s become his curse.”

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