Thursday, March 25, 2004

Dick Clarke: American Grandstander

Richard Clarke (not to be confused with American Bandstand's Dick Clark) recently released a book entitled "Against All Enemies." Richard Clark is a recently departed member of both the Bush and Clinton White Houses, and his book is critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror. Honestly, I am not particularly familiar with the details of Mr. Clark's allegations. However, I am accutely aware of the existence of the book due to CBS's constant mention of the book during March Madness last weekend.

CBS aired it's venerable news magazine, 60 Minutes, almost immediately following the basketball games on Sunday night. That night's episode featured Mr. Clarke discussing his book and the errors that he believed President Bush made. Commercials for this episode ran constantly during the basketball games. CBS portrayed Clarke's allegations as a serious and breaking news story. However, there is a little more than meets the eye (no pun on CBS intended) here.

Clarke's book largely gained attention due to the 60 Minutes episode. Clarke's book is published by Free Press, a subsidiary of Simon and Schuster. Simon and Schuster is owned by Viacom. Viacom also owns ... surprise, surprise ... CBS. So basically, you have one Viacom company creating buzz in the guise of news for a product being sold by another Viacom company.

I am a great champion of capitalism. I do not fault Viacom for using all of its tools to make money. But let's just be aware that 60 Minutes may have had a conflict of interests here when it weighed the newsworthiness of Clarke's largely unsubstantiated claims about the Bush administration.