THE HOUSES OF JOURNALIST COUNTY: Game-show elements, roving trucks!


Part 4—The Values of Journalist County:
Does it matter if our best-known stars live in The Houses of Journalist County?

Theoretically, it doesn’t matter at all. Theoretically, a person can live in a very large house while performing top-notch journalism.

Somewhere, it’s possible that this has even occurred!

Second question:

Does it matter if stars invent silly tales about the modesty of their lives—tales designed to make us think they’re just like us?

Personally, we think that practice starts to suggest a certain lack of respect for the truth. Beyond that, we think it strongly suggests a lack of respect for us the rubes—for the regular people who are being sold silly, self-serving tales.

In fairness, a person could hand us “Beverly Hillbilly” tales while producing excellent journalism. (For background, see yesterday’s post.)

More often, though, these silly tales from Journalist County correlate with the horrible work which has typified our political journalism over the past many years.

We thought of that journalistic history when we read the Parade cover story about Meredith Vieira’s new show. Here’s why:

Vieira is a well-known public figure. Her resume includes service on such famous programs as 60 Minutes and the Today show.

In 1989, Vieira won an Emmy for her report about homeless children on the CBS magazine program, 57th Street. But uh-oh! When we read about her plans for her new daytime show, we thought we were possibly catching a whiff of The Values of Journalist County.

Here's what it said in Parade:
HAUSER (8/24/14): On Sept. 8, she will debut as host of The Meredith Vieira Show, which she hopes will entertain as much as it will inspire. In addition to game-show elements and celebrity guests, the hour-long weekday program, produced and distributed by NBC Universal, will feature human interest stories and community calls to action. In one recurring segment, Vieira will pair a service dog with a family in need. In another, the show’s Pick Me Up Truck will roam the country looking for ways to lend a little support, whether by donating books to schools or connecting someone to a job.

“I want a show that, in its own little way, will make a difference—without being up on a soapbox,” says the multiple Emmy winner, who has been brainstorming ideas with her executive producer, Rich Sirop. The pair also worked on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which Vieira hosted for 11 years through a suffering economy. “When times were really bad, you could change someone’s life just by playing that game,” she says.
Here's the first thing that occurred to us: you really don’t have to “roam the country” if you want to give books to schools.

Beyond that, we thought of all the journalism about public schools which our news orgs refuse to perform or deliberately bungle. Given her very high public profile, Vieira could perform all sorts of valuable journalism at this terrible time.

Instead, she’s planning the “game-show elements” for her new program. Plus, the celebrity guests!

To state what is merely obvious, Vieira is no longer a journalist. In that sense, we’d say her new program strongly reflects The Values of Journalist County.

Very little journalism is done in Journalist County. This is the way an unpleasant person might summarize that Parade profile:

From one of The Houses of Journalist County, Vieira peddled a bit of a con. She said the rat-infested furniture on her new show’s set will let us see how she really lives, which is the way a lot of people live.

We’d say that claim was a bit of a scam, of a familiar type.

She then proceeded to tell us about the entertainment her show would provide. We even sat through that ridiculous statement about how good it made her feel to give away a million dollars, one person at a time.

The lottery does the same thing. But the lottery can’t perform journalism, a practice no one really pursues in The Houses of Journalist County.

Vieira could have been a contender! Having been paid something like $110 million in the past fifteen years, she could be doing actual journalism now—and God knows, her country could use some!

Instead, she’s planning the game-show chunks for a program which will bring her another $5 million per year. Fawning journalists feed the beast, offering piddle like this:
HAUSER: [W]hile the show will be filmed at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the set has been designed to look like her family room. “I want people to feel they are, in a sense, coming into my home,” she says. “It’s a safe place where you talk, you laugh, you cry.”

That deep sense of camaraderie is a reflection of Vieira’s own values, honed growing up the youngest of four children (she has three brothers) whose parents, both first-generation Portuguese-Americans, were a doctor and a homemaker. She credits her father’s dedication to helping people (“Most of his patients were Portuguese immigrants; his waiting room would be packed, and he didn’t leave until he’d seen every single one”) and her mother’s “spunk” with giving her a strong foundation.
According to other profiles, Vieira’s father would stay in his office till all hours, serving many immigrant patients who couldn’t afford to pay. For $5 million per year, his daughter crafts silly tales and game-show chunks while claiming her father’s mantle.

We could go on and on saying bad things about Vieira! They key point here is simple:

Vieira is no longer a journalist. Under our system, there’s nothing “wrong” with that.

That said, very little journalism emerges from The Houses of Journalist County. On Monday, we’ll review a prescient warning about this cultural problem.

This prescient warning emerged from Yale, in The Winter of 86.

Coming Monday: Weisberg gets it right!

Make of these chunks what you will: It isn’t Vieira’s fault that the following passage was written as part of a Ladies Home Journal cover story. But good lord! Meryl Gordon really captured The Values of Journalist County!

In 2010, Vieira was hosting Today while working a second job:
GORDON (11/10): These days Vieira has plenty of work to fill any voids. Later this morning she will change into Gap jeans, a black T-shirt, and clogs to head over to the set of the syndicated game show that she hosts, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. This fall she marks her ninth year as host of the show, for which she makes an estimated million-dollar salary. Rather than resent the grueling schedule, she is relieved to be able to earn two large paychecks so she can save for the future. "She has always squirreled money away," says her friend Mo Cashin. "That's her dad, instilling in her as the only girl in the family: You got to work, you got to earn it, you got to keep it.”
According to Gordon, Vieira didn’t resent the time she had to spend on that second show, for which she was paid $1 million per year!

That formulation wasn’t Vieira’s fault. But it certainly captured The Values of Journalist County.

One last chunk, for comic relief:

Yesterday, we said we’d provide some further information about the renovation of Vieira’s Westchester County home.

Back in 2006, Vieira told a silly tale to Traditional Home magazine about the genesis of the renovation. The whole thing started because she decided she wanted a kitchen banquette!

The story seemed somewhat unlikely to us. Later, we spotted a news report about the renovation in the New York Post:
NEW YORK POST STAFF (11/15/04): So where was Meredith Vieira when the girls of “The View” tossed Star Jones her final, on-air bachelorette party last Friday?

Seems that she had to be at home to straighten out a serious dispute with the local officials over the renovations to her house.

All work on the house was ordered stopped this week by town officials in Irvington, a village in Westchester.

The building permit had allowed her and husband Richard Cohen to demolish about three-quarters of their home before rebuilding.

But according to local news reports, the demolition had taken down nearly the entire structure,
prompting the stop-work order.
Sometimes it’s hard to get a banquette through a building’s front door!

There’s nothing wrong with demolishing a $2.1 million home, adding 2000 square feet to the manse in the process. Major league infielders do this sort of thing all the time.

In our view, there is something wrong when journalists invent silly tales to make us think they’re just like us. When they tell us they used to live like The Beverly Hillbillies.

For better or worse, they aren’t like us, not in the way they live and not in their often unfortunate values! As we’ll start to see next week, this becomes clear in the “journalism” they and their colleagues produce.


  1. My God! Bob is combing eight-year-old stories in Traditional Homes magazine to prove that Meredith Vieira is rich, lives in a luxurious home, and is "not like us."

    I get it, Bob. Meredith Vieira is a horrible person for saying such things.

  2. ". . . her and husband Richard Cohen . . ."

    Before anyone jumps to conclusions, this is NOT the Washington Post Richard Cohen.

    The Richard Cohen to whom Meredith Vieira is wed is a former CBS producer who has had multiple sclerosis since age 25. He has also survived colon cancer twice, and is legally blind.

    They have been married for 28 years.

  3. Donating books to schools? Give me a break. There have been state and federal government programs subsidizing school books for many decades.

    True story: My wife's late Uncle Bob was a small publisher. During, IIRC, the Kennedy Administration, a law was passed paying 100% of the cost of books added to school libraries. In response, Bob's company re-issued a bunch of out-of-print books and sold them to schools. However, these books were deservedly out of print. Adding them to the school libraries was simply a waste of tax money.

    1. David, excuse me if experience has taught me to dismiss the bullshit stories you pull out of your ass. Especially about some "relative" of yours.

    2. During, IIRC, ....

      David in Cal, has that ever happened?

    3. Thank heavens. A possible debate between deadrat and David in Cal. The troll frazzled nerves of regular Bob readers can relax a bit.

    4. Yes, indeed. A debate between deadrat and Dave in Cal beefs up the ol' combox better than even the Zimmerman Defense Team, who seems to have taken a powder now that Somerby's race-baiting over Ferguson is on hiatus.

    5. deadrat, you can get some details about my wife's late uncle Bob Guinn at the first few links at

  4. One week and not one current journalist save for a scant mention of one dead and one living NBC Irish Catholic and a false allegation about on oily old coot.

    1. Do not forget that his "series" was "planned" and announced long before the Parade profile of the Lifestyle of Meredith Vieira.

      Bob had a brilliant idea. Rushed to his blog to announce it, then lacked the drive and the material to flesh it out.

      So this is what we get.

    2. Inside of us, we both know Bob belongs in Journalist County. It's part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that series covers someone else and you're not reading, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

      11:57: But what about today's journalists?

      We'll always have Weisberg.

    3. One would think that four days would be enough time for Bob to produce the median salary of journalists, so we can see plainly how beset we are by a multi-millionaire press corps living in multi-million dollar mansions who are "not like us."

    4. Which is something Bob will never tell you, although I bet it took you less than 5 minutes to find it.

      Bob instead will try to turn a handful of exceptions -- "stars" pulling down multi-millionaire salaries -- into the rule.

      It is like saying that all stand-up comics are as rich as Jerry Seinfeld. You would think Somerby would know better.

    5. Less than 30 seconds. Personal disclosure. At least once every ten years I come in personal contact with the U.S. Census Bureau.

  5. A well sourced series, Bob. Parade. Ladies Home Journal. Traditional Home. The New York Post.

    1. Bulldog Bob spares no expense nor effort in examining the critical questions of the day.

      Remember how exhaustively he searched for the answer to how Rachel Maddow came into possession of her first TV set? And whether or not she was a crack shot?

    2. Baah! Bob only brings us warmed over NY Post. The latest:

      "Meredith Vieira. She’s like crabgrass. Been everywhere..."

    3. Why are there so many commenters who share exactly the same contempt for "BOB" and everything he writes and express themselves in much the same way and go on and on and on and on and on? Is it just to amuse each other? Is it possible there are actually only two or three commenters who are so dedicated to the anti-Somerby crusade and they're trying to give the impression there are more of them? I don't know why they care so much. Do they have blogs? Can we read and comment on them? I'm sincerely curious. I realize that asking these questions makes me look like a "Bobfan" but what can you do?

    4. 2:25

      There are only two Bobfans left after the two or three trolls took over.

      David in Cal and deadrat. And deadrat does his level best to deny it.

      Thanks for asking. Do you have a marriage that needs saving or a pernicious disease we can cast away with a spell?

    5. This is not true. I am here too.

  6. The old site, sans comments, was better. I occasionally click on the comments hoping for something substantive, but they're almost always just a silly distraction. When will I learn?

    By the way, I don't mind being called a Bobfan. Some days the site is better than others, of course, but overall I believe it performs an important public service and that's why I put my money where my mouth is and support it. If nothing else, "The Houses of Journalist County" is an amusing and useful catchphrase.

    1. You are right about that Gary. It is an amusing and useful catchphrase. But a bit reminiscent of "The Bridges Liberals Would Rather Jump Off Of." At least that involved more than one bridge plus a tower or two.

    2. Gary, the "old site sans comments" was dead in the water. That's why Bob switched to the more interactive "new site" with comments. People who had long grown bored with reading his long, repetitious screeds about how poorly the world treated his old college buddy could at least amuse themselves with some back and forth.

      Which is truly sad. Bob WAS a pioneer in political blogging back when he began in 1998. But he never progressed beyond the one-man, vanity blog stage. In fact, he just sunk deeper into that hole, thinking that he is such an original, brilliant thinker, and keeps digging that he has become a self-parody. A joke on himself, that he doesn't get.

    3. Gary:

      Bob was so much younger then. He's older than that now.

    4. Thank you for reminding me that I can support this site by donating. I guess that is the best revenge against the trolls. If KZ and the others won't stop annoying us, we can object by helping to fund Somerby.

    5. So let me understand. You are motivated to donate to Somerby as "the best revenge against the trolls" not because of the inspiration Somerby provides you daily.

      Well, rubes and their money are soon parted. Bob will certainly spend the money regardless of how he got it.

  7. Bob asks two very crucial questions at the beginning of this post in an awrd winning series. Too bad none of you rube trolls even want to try and stay on topic.

    I will try:

  8. I love this place. It's one of the few where I can go to get an honest opinion.
    That said, the story about Vieira's big remodel is vacuous. The scope of any building project is liable to change. Big whoop.

  9. Here is the point. Smerconish interviewed Amanda Ripley yesterday. They spent a chunk of the time discussing admission procedures at the Ivy league schools because Smerconish's kids are going through that. That reflects the rarefied air of the journalist lifestyle. Most people are not aiming at such schools, which are very different from the rest if higher ed. So how these people live affects the questions they ask their guests -- what they choose to talk about.

    1. Well done, Bob. Another rube convinced that since two people talked about Ivy League admissions on a radio show yesterday, all journalists live like that.

    2. And well done to you, too. Another troll trying to convince us that Smerconish and Ripley are just two people talking about Ivy League admissions.

    3. I have no idea what Smerconish and Ripley were discussing on Smerconish's radio show.

      I do know that one of Bob's fans heard it then rushed to this blog with yet more evidence of the "rarified air of the journalist lifestyle."

      Bob is grateful for his gullible rubes who lack the intellectual curiosity to find out for themselves how the vast, vast majority of journalists really live.

      In fact, he counts on both of his remaining rubes to run to the combox and call "troll" on anyone who points out how intellectually bankrupt it is to pick on the exceptional "stars" and make that the rule.

      And the exceptional star Bob has focused on for an entire week? Meredith Vieira.

      Of course, you think that's brilliant.


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