Media Matters

Dispatches From the Alley

A report from Mrs. Kelley's neighborhood, where a clearly pointless vigil continues. 

By 11.15.12

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TAMPA -- Once again the mainstream media is doing what it does best, shining bright light on ephemera. In this case, multiple lights. To accomplish this, newsies are making bloody nuisances of themselves in my usually quiet neighborhood.

With several days of clear evidence that there is nothing of even minimal interest to film at the home of Jill Kelley, the media scrum in front, in back, and on the sides of the Kelley manse has grown larger. Wednesday morning there were about 15 poorly dressed idlers milling around in the alley behind the Kelley home, communing with the garbage cans and hoping to get a shot of, well, of what isn't clear. This is up from about 10 on Tuesday. Is this any kind of work for a grownup?

A smaller number of dung beetles, with all manner of lights, cameras, and other expensive but seemingly pointless equipment was arrayed on city right-of-way in front of and around the side of the house. (Do the guys who drew the short straws have to stand in back by the garbage cans?) Trucks bearing the legends of various news organizations were parked nose to rear bumper for a block and a half into this residential neighborhood. From time to time a noisy and low-flying news helicopter chops its way across the otherwise unsullied Tampa sky in pursuit of God knows what.

One is entitled to wonder what these folks are expecting to get a shot of, or what exactly is the point of shouting questions at someone who isn't going to answer them. So I approached a bored and bearded guy standing behind an expensive-looking camera. I got a blank look when I asked, "How can you stand the pace?" Maybe this is what this guy does every day -- poor sod. Then I pointed out that TV viewers have already seen La Kelley making a short, silent walk from the door of her home to her car, so what was the prize he was looking for today? Without a smile or any other indication of interest or irony he replied, "Today's walk to the car."

Oh. Well, I guess that's a lot easier than nailing down what went on in Benghazi and why. So for the short term, the Kelleys' luckless neighbors will have to endure noisy newsies and their collateral clamor doing their 11 p.m. stand-ups in front of the Kelley house, which is bathed for the purpose in powerful lights that reach far beyond the Kelley's property line.

Away from the Kelley site, other well-paid media gnomes are busy trying to pin down who was embedded and who was in-bedded with whom, in what is almost certainly a national security non-sequitur but flag-rank gossip. This sort of thing used to be the exclusive territory of publications with names like "The National Perspirer" or the "Weekly Ransacker." The Brits used to be better than us at this, but I fear we have caught up with the Mother Country. Fleet Street is everywhere now. 

There are at what should be heart of this matter some serious questions, not limited to: Why were Americans allowed to die in Benghazi when the option existed during the hours-long attack to defend them? And, if General Petraeus and his straying from his marriage vows made him too much of a risk to remain head Secret Squirrel three days after the election, why was he not just as much of a risk in September when Eric Holder knew about it?

TAS readers are advised not to hold their breath until any media organization save Fox News goes after these important questions. So much easier, more fun, and less dangerous to President Perfect to keep after whom was kanoodling with whom. Even though this is wearisome to the adult mind.

Surely this wasn't what the Philadelphia founders had in mind when they composed the First Amendment.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.