Thursday, February 15, 2007

And Now, an Apology in the Form of an Open Letter to America

Dear American Public,

I have no excuse. I have no defense.

I am a member of the American news media and have been for some time. This means that on more than one occasion I have -- willingly or unwillingly -- foisted upon you the trite, the inane and the monumentally ridiculous, and done so under the auspices of my supposed right to inform and educate you as to important events which effect your lives. I have been party to the beaming into your living room of seemingly endless video loops of JonBenet Ramsey dressed as a five-year-old prostitute. I have encouraged various interchangable Ken-and-Barbiesque meat-puppets, pompous and breathless, to sincerely attempt to convince you of the hidden threat lurking in your underwear drawer. I have conspired to make you believe that you were, at any given moment, in danger of being eaten by a shark. I have actually written the words "Every Parent's Nightmare" -- more than once in fact. I have dispatched correspondents to Aruba in search of Natalee Holloway. I have marveled at the ingenuity behind using an episode of Dateline NBC to promote The Apprentice. I've been good friends with Rick Sanchez for sixteen years.

In short, I have betrayed you. I have betrayed your trust.

I have let you down.

Yet I've never felt compelled to humbly ask for any sort of forgiveness for my offenses. I have never felt true shame, both for myself and my chosen profession -- until now.

I'm sorry for the coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

I'm sorry that so many supposedly venerable news organizations have elevated the all-but-inevitable self-destruction of a B-list former-stripper, Playmate, hack-actress, gold-digger, tabloid-queen, and all-around piece of human flotsam to the lofty heights of near-Shakespearian mythology. I'm sorry that we have treated an absolutely meaningless event as if it were somehow nothing short of a cultural earthquake, sure to send reverberations and tremors throughout society until they shake the very foundation -- the very soul -- of every man, woman and child in America. I'm sorry that we have devoted hour after hour to discussing and debating such asinine subjects as the paternity of this horrid woman's baby -- even being willing to proclaim, with a straight face, that its father might be the husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor. I'm sorry that we've allowed Wolf Blitzer and Diane Sawyer to look no better than Pat O'Brien and Maria Menounos. I am truly sorry that we have, even for a moment, lent a shred of credibility to the opinions of Nancy Grace.

During the past week, those charged with the awesome responsibility of relaying to you the global, cultural, political, economic and medical news which you rightly expect and demand from us, have instead willingly allowed ourselves to be taken hostage by every permutation of loathsome, opportunistic degenerate -- each claiming to be able to add yet another spoonful of pabulum to the pot we're all too happy to stir. During the past week, hundreds of American soldiers and innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq -- as our focus shifted to one minor celebrity who died just off the Florida Turnpike.

We have failed you.

We have failed ourselves.

The only possible consolation is that many of us are well aware of our own ethical bankruptcy in the continued pursuit of this absurdity. I could explain at length my own feelings in the matter, but better I allow an anonymous colleague of mine to be the eloquent, impassioned voice for the thousands currently toiling away on this story at otherwise-reputable news operations across the country:

"I'm sorry, but I did not spend tens of thousands of dollars in school to cover this bullshit. She's a celebrity for fucking the unfuckable; that's not an accomplishment. I actually announced to the newsroom this morning that I didn't go to journalism school to cover a two-bit Texas whore and that, if this was the kind of news we were covering, I could use my diploma for toilet paper. It's unbelievable. BREAKING NEWS??? I'm really sorry that the drug addict OD-ed, but that's what happens when you're an overweight drug addict."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

With Contrition,



kali said...

*stands and applauds for five minutes*

I...I...I think I love you. I realize you're a married blogger but...I think we can make this work.

Seriously, everytime I have to hear about this woman (who is somehow being raised into martyrdom) I want to scream. My only comfort is that one fantasy where I punch Nancy Grace in the babymaker.

rasaustin said...

Dear Chez:
On behalf of the unwashed masses of Americans, who's definition of democracy consists of using their cell phone to award a talentless hack a record contract; who thinks a comedian in a latex suit is box-office gold; who thinks that a tattoo is a fashion statement that will never go out of style; and who thinks that Olive Garden is the pinnacle of culinary excellence - can I just say:

Keep up the good work!

Jacque said...

Can I get an AMEN from the congregation?!?

Peter L. Winkler said...

Let me know when you and your anonymous colleague decide to leave the news/entertainment business.

Until then, your apologia will be as sincere as those BP (British Petroleum) commercials telling us how concerned they are about the environment.

Sorry to come on so tough, but you can take it, you're an adult.

Chez said...

First of all, neither myself nor my colleague makes the decisions as to what our overall coverage is. So, yes, I'll say it -- we're just following orders.

As for quitting -- sorry man, I'm idealistic but I'm not fucking stupid. You wanna come pay the rent on my New York apartment, be my guest.


I actually stayed home from work today (sinus headache, yeah, that was the reason I gave) and of course I had all day to watch a room full of lawyers, and the worst, most embarassingly nebbishy judge ever, argue over:

Whether the corpse will get a DNA test,
Where the corpse will get a DNA test,
How the corpse will get a DNA test,
Who will administer a DNA test,
Who will WATCH the administration of a DNA test,
Whether the corpse will be embalmed,
Where the corpse will be embalmed,
How the corpse will be embalmed,
Who will embalm the corpse,
Who will watch the corpse being embalmed,
Whether the corpse will be buried,
Where the corpse will be buried,
How the corpse will be buried,
Who will bury the corpse,
Who will watch the corpse being buried... between telling ridiculously corny jokes about the corpse, in front of the corpse's grieving mother.

It reminded me of...well, click over to my blog and see for yourself.

ali c said...

I've been lucky enough to only see the inanity on the Daily Show.

I really don't get what the strategy is... and I haven't been able to settle on a phrase to google. What's the deal?

Robert said...

Whores calling whores whores.


You're on hell of a talented writer. Hope the apartment is worth it.

Chez said...

Blow me.

Liz said...

Let me put it to you this way, every day I put on my happy face and go in and let old men leer at me and act like I'm excited about it. I let them tell their stinking jokes and act like they are funny. I cheerfully chirp "What can I do to make your job easier?" when all I can think about is how fucking low I've sunk in the world. I'm not begrudging you doing what you need to do. We all have to swallow our pride sometimes, and as this once proud lady has learned, it stings like a bitch.

Daphne said...

Can I get an AMEN from the congregation?!?

And the congregation said, "A-Fucking-Men."

Harris said...

I fucking wanted to know what was in her refrigerator. It is my right as an American to know what a marginally talented, well, big-breasted train wreck of a woman liked to eat on her toast . . .you know, on those rare occassions she ate actual food and not just a fistful of Qualuddes washed down with Everclear.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

"I've been good friends with Rick Sanchez for sixteen years."

Well, that just about says it all, don't it.

Spencer said...

I don't care how contrite you are, just like Anna Nicole, you now need a reservation to get into heaven.

/Sorry, sooo sorry.

DC said...

This is why I unplugged my cable, removed the antenna and turned off my tv. Thank you for stepping forward and saying what we all know. Now if we could only get someone (besides Andy Rooney) to say this on the air. As for your detractors, I think we have all had to compromise at some point in our life to pay the rent. Until someone volunteers to pay your rent, keep speaking for the rest of us.

TK said...

DC, I save myself the trouble of not unplugging my TV by simply not watching it. I know, I know. I feel for you, Chez. There comes a time in everyone's life when you find yourself compromising what you should be doing. At least you can recognize it for what it is.

Christy said...

I fantasize about waking up and finding that Nancy Grace has been brutally murdered. I hate that woman with every particle that comprises me. Ugh.

Chez said...

It sickens me to feel this way, but I've truly come to believe that not all life is precious. As Axl Rose of all people once put it so well -- ironically -- "Maybe we'd be better off without you anyway."

I wouldn't mourn Nancy Grace one bit and would be interested to see what good could actually be said about her in memoriam.

That said, if she suddenly falls into a wood-chipper or something, I'm denying all of this.

DC said...

Had to unplug the cable after I turned the tv off. I don't want to reward the weasels with my money and allow them to believe that I watch their drivel.

SA said...

Congratulations. It was an ugly thing, but hardly unexpected, and I think you've said a mouthful. I applaud your guts in coming forth and saying it. I, for one, accept your apology and wish that your colleagues would come to the same conclusion. However, being truthful is rarely the most popular or profitable route in journalism. Unlike other commenters, I would like to strongly urge you to keep on writing, and to do it with conscience and integrity - God knows we need more journalists who do! Best of luck. The path of integrity is almost never the easier or more rewarding, but I wish you well.

debbie millman said...

freaking brilliant. thank you.

Shane said...

Your piece of drivel was recently reposted on, a wesbite I generally enjoy, and I found it to be in incredibly poor taste. Anna Nicole Smith was a human, she was a mother, and she was someone's friend. And now, regardless of who she slept with and what you think about it, she is dead. Something tells me that the if it were Donald Trump or Charlie Sheen or some other notorious man-whore who had died, you wouldn't have had the least bit of pause covering the story.

Indeed, you might be sickened at any comparisons that are made between Anna Nicole and Princess Di, but what was Princess Di famous for? Oh yes, marrying someone rich and having an eating disorder. You know, I can see how you'd fail to see the similarity.

What's my point here?

You may be sick to death of your job and your personal life choices, but you should at least have the common fucking decency to respect a person's death and not call them a whore posthumously. Honestly, it is about as classy as digging up their corpse and taking a piss on it.

So go back to your job of covering the real news, and when you find that people in America sometimes shrink away from the constant horror show about death and destruction, try to enjoy going back to covering the antics of Anna Nicole, Paris Hilton, and this year's American Idol contestants. There is a reason that people crave celebrity news. It's called escapism. I'm surprised that someone of your supposed experience doesn't know that.


Rob said...

Hmm... Nancy Grace. Never heard of her. Did look her up on Wikipedia - doesn't seem like someone I would want to party with. That probably explains why I never heard of her - I never watched her.

See - that's the cool thing about TV, newspapers, and the Internet (I just checked - it even works with the damned Radio!) - - if you don't like what you are seeing, hearing, reading or browsing then just shut it the fuck off!

That's what I don't understand about this apology - nobody forces the idiots to sit and watch endless hours about where some slut will get DNA'd, Embalmed, buried, etc. So what's to apologize for? Any of those viewers could do what I did/do - switch to TLC, Dicsovery or the History Channel. Maybe even PBS! Hell, even TVLAND is better for you than "Current Events"!

Why in the hell can't people just shut this shit off instead of complaining about it in detail? If enough people SHUT IT OFF it WILL go away. Instead they watch it, and bitch about it. And they do it again and again.

A true sign of insanity is repeating the same action over and over hoping for a different outcome each time...


Anonymous said...

Now we have to apologize for shoving Bald Britney down people's throats. It's page two news down here.


Chez said...

Wow Shane -- I'd like to take you seriously and pick your argument apart piece by ludicrous piece, but for some reason I can't stop laughing hysterically.

Maybe I'll just leave it at that, except to say the this: you want escapism? Rent a fucking Disney movie. That's not what the news media is here to provide for you.

Incidentally, good luck with either A) your continued management of the E! television network, or B) that paternity test which names you the father of Anna Nicole's love child.

shane said...

Your friends here at E! are just waiting to do your True Hollywood Story. :)


Chez said...

And thanks for continuing to read. xoxox

AlexIS said...


I work in news as well (almost 2 years now, not long, but long enough)and my first instinct was to blame people for wanting to see this. Our click count on the website I work for consistently shows a bunch of junk at #1.

Don't you think that people that eat this up have just a tad to do with alll of this hubbub? Granted, as soon as word is leaked that she croaked, about 5,000 photogs booked plane tickets, but they weren't wrong about what the people wanted.

Anonymous said...

I wish you hadn't chosen to dilute your point. Calling her (or quoting her as) a 2-bit whore just makes you look like a misogynistic dick.

The point obviously isn't her (so-judged-by-you) moral deficiency - the point is that relatively speaking, she isn't NEWS. Still - the fact that she has been sensationalized doesn't mean she's below contempt. By your slightly warped meter, she'd have been much more deserving of your respect if she'd gone on a killing spree somewhere.

I really don't have much sympathy for you. You created her - so now you get to go out and maintain her, regardless of the inanity of it all. Seems like a fitting punishment, if you ask me.

Chez said...

You know, for the record -- I didn't actually call her a whore; my colleague did (a colleague who happens to be a young woman by the way). I agree that at several points during Anna Nicole's short but illustrious life, serious news outlets decided that whatever was going on with her merited coverage beyond what the tabloids were providing. I honestly never agreed with that decision; I thought it was always a case of us chasing what amounted to frivolous crap. It did however serve as a very nice lead-up to the carnival atmosphere of the coverage we've witnessed in the wake of her death.

Anna Nicole had every right in the world to lead whatever the hell kind of life she wanted to and be whatever she wanted to be -- trainwreck, angel or something in between. None of it changes the fact that her death, although unfortunate, and the bizarre soap-opera that's followed isn't legitimate news. It never should've been more than tabloid/Entertainment Tonight fodder. That idiot Pat O'Brien doesn't step on our toes by strapping on a kevlar vest and running all over Baghdad -- why should step on his by trying to land that big one-on-one with Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband?

Incidentally, at no point did I ask for your goddamned sympathy.

Anonymous said...

If you had any real cojones, you would have distanced yourself from the story in the first place. But like everyone else, you were just doing your job. I understand, man - I have bills to pay, too. Life's a bitch that way.

Anyway, it's no small wonder why I rarely watch CNN, Fox, and the other "news" channels any more. How you folks can begin to justify wasting valuable bandwidth on this dreck is beyond me, while at the same time spending little time on really important issues. This story is a single instance of many. Remember Lisa Nowak? The guy a month or so ago who said he killed Jon Benet? There was loads of coverage on both of those "useless-to-anyone-except-their-immediate-family" stories. On the other hand, I rarely hear coverage of the looming spectre of the end of cheap oil (and the subsequent societal havoc that will cause), or on the revolving door of influence-peddling that exists between corporations and high-government positions (and how those two things might just be related in some small way). I suppose those issues don't jive with your overlord masters' big game plan, nor do they give the people what they want. But, you need to cover these things in such a way that you induce "the man on the street" to become an activist. No easy task to do this for an audience of "Biggiesizers".

As a rule of thumb, I would say that a mainstream outlet, for example, CNN, should devote no more than an hour or so worth of time to stories like this. That is, for stories that involve a celebrity death, incarceration, or trial of an individual for a crime that was not committed against the entire society as a whole. Post the rest of the details online as they are made available or have the tabloid division of your network cover it in an appropriate outlet. What happens to an Anna Nicole Smith, Lisa Nowak, or other individual, does not affect me. What the industry/government franchise is doing behind our backs does, and needs to take absolute priority.

I guess what I'm saying is that there are loads of juicy stories there just waiting to be exposed. Real threats to our freedoms that don't involve brown people speaking in a strange language and worshipping a different religion. But do involve crafty, mainly white guys in $1000 suits, negotiating away our future in closed-door sessions with each other. These stories require hard investigative work to expose them, and an outlet with the gonads to air them. This is work that you guys (including your superiors) don't seem willing to do. As it was in 1945, the statement "I was only following orders" is no excuse.

That said, your personal apology is accepted. Now, you need to *do* something about it. You have the connections to start fixing the recent wrongs that have been done by your profession, to start covering the things that need to be fixed, before they end up "fixing" us. We, on the other hand, have the responsibility to be educated enough to know when you are genuinely telling us the truth, or simply playing us for the consumer fools that we seem to be.

As a starter, take a look at LINK TV (I get it on satellite). When I see *that* kind of critical reporting of important issues on the other "mainstream" networks, maybe I'll start taking you seriously again.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Fucking Brilliant!!! Now how to you explain the guy in the robe elevated above everyone wiping tears from his money-hungry wretched face

namron said...

I am new to your blog. Having just read your comment on the "subway themed condoms" and your open letter apology, and-- like you--- being a survivor of a Catholic education through twelfth grade, I pose this one question: What did the denziens of Sodom and Gommorah do that earned them a "zapping" that we have not yet accomplished?

Terri said...

I wish I knew all the words to that 99 luftballons song, thats about as much as I care about ANS...but I will admit that I am kinda envious that she has a acronym and I do not:-(

Sleepless Mama said...

I have waited most of my life to find the most appropriate scenario for the response I'm about to make:
Fuckin' A.

Yes, I know, swearing does not denote intelligence, maturity, or understanding. However, your letter merits my rarest form of the acknowledgement of truth. Sorry it's not more eloquent or sophisticated, but then, neither was Anna Nicole.

Thanks for the open apology. I hope you don't mind if I send the link to my local news stations. (Houston stations, actually, which means we probably got more Anna-Nicole-was-a-homegrown-Texan coverage than most states. I hang my own head in shame.)