Part 2—The salaries and the homes:
If we might enjoy a brief amusement, a funny thing happened to Meredith Vieira as she tried to show us the people who she really is.

On the cover of Parade, she was quoted saying this: “I want people to see the real me.” Inside the magazine, in the profile itself, she explained that the set of her new TV show will feature “the authenticity of” her own furniture from her own house in New York, or at least of a facsimile.

“The cats and the dog ruined [the furniture],” Vieira is quoted saying, “and I just want people to see this is how I live, and probably the way a lot of people live.”

Vieira lives the same way you do! Inside Parade, she was photographed on a comfy sofa at her Cape Cod “cottage.” We seemed to be seeing the real Vieira! But wouldn’t you know it? On-line, beneath the photo, these credits appeared:

“Styling, Fran Taylor; Hair, Freddy Sanchez; Makeup, Bradford Knight.”

Even at her cottage, these intrusions were forced upon the person who wants us to see the real her!

We offer that observation as a brief amusement. That said, we didn’t exactly believe the things we read in Parade. We wondered where on the Cape the “cottage” was (on-line, Parade answered that question), and what the cottage was actually like. We wondered if the home in New York had really been ruined by her cats and her dog.

Our questions resembled those once brought to Thoreau, whose “house” at the time didn’t quite rise to the level of being a cottage. Years before he walked Cape Cod, he started Walden like this:
THOREAU: When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.

I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at all impertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent. Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these questions in this book...I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me.
Like Vieira, Thoreau lived simply, at least for a couple of years.

He said he thought those questions were pertinent. He said he required of every writer “a simple and sincere account of his own life.”

Thoreau may not have admired the stars of the modern press corps. All too often, they live in The Houses of Journalist County, while offering somewhat misleading accounts of their own lives.

The late Tim Russert perfected the practice, with endless accounts of his working-class boyhood, tales he penned from his own Nantucket “cottage” (so described in one profile), whose price tag ran $6.1 million.

Other big stars have played this game, helping us see that they’re just like us. Tomorrow, we’ll look at a comical example from 2006, when Vieira explained why she and her husband had engineered a massive renovation of that cat-ravaged New York home, which they had purchased for $2.1 million in the year 2000.

In the course of the renovation, their architect “managed to pump up the square footage by about 2,000 feet,” Traditional Home explained in this profile, which includes 28 photos of the now cat-ravaged home.

In our view, Vieira’s explanation of that massive renovation was especially comical. But so what? Starting next week, the humble set of her TV show will help us see that she and her family live the same way we do.

Let’s be clear: Under our system, there’s nothing “wrong” with making millions of dollars per year. All across the major leagues, utility infielders do so.

There’s also nothing “wrong” with living in large or expensive houses.

That said, we would suggest that there is something slightly wrong with conning the public about these matters. And we’d make a much more important suggestion:

Very weak journalism tends to emerge from The Houses of Journalist County! When people live as these people do, they tend to produce very weak “journalism,” of a highly recognizable kind.

We’ll start perusing that problem on Friday. For today, just for the record, let’s establish some basic facts about Vieira’s career and houses.

Vieira has received a lot of money during her TV career. There’s nothing “wrong” with that, of course, nor is that fact exactly a secret.

But just for the record, here is a basic rundown of Vieira’s TV career from 1985 through 2013. Starting in 1997, we include reported salaries:
Vieira’s TV career:
1985-1989: West 57th, CBS
1989-1991: 60 Minutes, CBS
1992-1993: CBS Morning News
1994-1999: Turning Point (ABC news magazine)
1995-2004: Intimate Portrait (Lifetime celebrity profile show)

1997-2006: The View ($5 million per year)
2002-2013: What Wants to Be a Millionaire? ($1 million per year)
2006-2011: Today, Dateline NBC ($10 million per year, rising perhaps to $12 million)
There’s nothing “wrong” with any of that! But just for the record, we estimate something like $110 million in income from 1997 through 2013, not including chump change from Turning Point and Intimate Portrait.

Under our system, there’s nothing “wrong” with that; that’s major league infielder money. Nor is there anything “wrong” with the houses, which include or comprise these:
Vieira’s houses:
The New York home, purchased for $2.1 million in 2000, then massively renovated and expanded.
The Cape Cod cottage, purchased for $1.2 million in 2008.
The Los Angeles “pied a terre” (“Terry’s pad”), reportedly purchased for $1.12 million in 2012.
There’s nothing “wrong” with any of that! Indeed, many of The Houses of Journalist County are grander and more expensive.

That said, we somehow doubt that all the furniture in that 28-photo photo spread has been ruined by the cats, or that the set of Vieira’s new program will really help us understand the way she actually lives.

Just this once, we’ll be honest! Personally, we don’t like it when TV stars con us the rubes this way, inventing hooks to convey the idea that they’re just like us.

As our award-winning series proceeds, we’ll review other examples of this widespread practice. Tomorrow, we’ll review Vieira’s highly comical turn in 2006 with this legerdemain.

We don’t like it when big stars con us the rubes this way. But much more important is the journalism—or more often, the lack of same—which emerges from The Houses of Journalist County.

Can we talk? Vieira, who is very wealthy, walked away from journalism a long time ago. That’s permitted under our system, of course. It’s done on TV every day!

But the houses and lifestyles of Journalist County tend to bring a halt to the famous practice for which the county was named long ago.

Tomorrow, we’ll enjoy some comic relief. On Friday, we’ll ponder Vieira’s new show, and its apparent values.

Tomorrow: A comically fake explanation


  1. Well, I see you briefly mentioned a guy whose been dead for six years.

    But how long will this series continue to focus on Meredith Vieira?

    Also, if your point is that we are plagued by a millionaire press corps, I would hope that at some point in this series, you'd produce some data that would support that. Such as the median salaries for journalists in the United States.

    1. Dead Russert is but an interlude in the middle of a series on a woman who has been dead 31 years who worte a book about a politician who has been dead for 20.

    2. Our news isn't much presented by median journalists -- I'd like to hear a convincing argument that what the median is would tell us much about how the average person receives media opinion.

      I'd like to, but I won't.

    3. The median pay for journalists cuts right to the issue of whether we have a "millionaire press corps" or not. What is the median pay for journalists? Bob would like to tell you, but he won't.

      Instead, we'll get "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Game Show Hosts."

  2. A Mitt Romney who makes no apologies for his earned spectacular wealth beats a wealthy phony lib conning her low IQ lib fans, every time.

    1. The only person I can see even pretending that Meredith Vieira can possibly "con" anyone is Somerby.

      This is another problem with Bob and his supercilious "fans." They think they are oh so much smarter than everyone else, particularly all those unwashed masses.

    2. Please, @ 11:29, call us rubes and losers. You may be unwashed, but many of us take pains with our hygiene.

  3. Here's an example of why some of us longtime Bob readers are growing increasingly frustrated.

    A brilliant idea crossed Bob's mind many, many weeks ago and he rushed to his blog to promise his readers an extremely insightful series that would explain everything -- our press corps makes a lot of money and are out of touch.

    Then he didn't do a damned thing to research it.

    Then while perusing his Sunday paper on Aug. 24, he came across the Vieira profile. Voila! His "series" is ready to go!

    Day 1: Meredith Vieira. Day 2: More Meridith Vieira. Day 3: "A comically fake explanation." Day 4: "we'll ponder Vieira's new show."

    Yep, this series is focusing on a person who, in Bob's own words, "walked away from journalism a long time ago."

    And why? Because he's too damned lazy to look up anything beyond the Parade magazine article delivered to his front door.

    1. Even a pre-teen with a Facebook page would include a selfie in front of Vieira's cottage on Cape Cod before claiming to have visited there.

    2. You get what you pay for.

    3. Or you get a barrage of DavidinMenloPark non-sequiturs.

  4. OMB (Houses of the Not So Journalists But Famous)

    If we might enjoy a brief amusement, a funny thing happened to BOB as he tried to show us the people who symbolize the journalistic meme he is furthering based on a ficitonal fact.

    Can we talk? Before he even got started it was noted he was not beginning the series with a journalist, but a game show/talk show host.

    That said, and more important, this series he said was invented by an "oily, oleaginous old coot" who was rich to boot (nothing "wrong" with that we repeatedly add it quotation marks). That assertion is a phony as he feverishly and repeatedly alleges Vieira's critter ruined furniture and/or home to be. That fact was also noted months before BOB began the current opus, which may last as long as our Tour de Tuscaloosa.

    We cover this in detail our recent commentary on yesterday's Part 1 in this long delayed series which BOB says was either inspired by Diane Sawyer or the meager gruel of the Parade piece on Vieira. He claims both in the last post. You can visit the archives for our excellent work.

    So to what does BOB lay himself open in this rehash of Meredith Vieira's puffery of her "not journalism" new syndicated talk show.
    "I just want people to see this is how I live, and probably the way a lot of people live,” he belittles Vieira for saying. Does BOB really want us to circle all the way back to the key quotes from Hillary Clinton, which triggered all this tomfoolery? We can. We'd prefer not to.

    1. The old KZ was much more talented than this one. It's sad!!

    2. Wouldn't the current KZ actually be the older of the two? Chronologically speaking? He is aging just like Somerby.

    3. Yes, ZK, the "I'm just like you" syndrome is really nothing new, nor is it limited to TV celebrities who left journalism long ago.

      This was brilliantly and far more humorously lampooned not so long ago by Jon Stewart's "Poor-Off" between Hillary and Joe Biden.

      It would also not occur to Bob that for every Meredith Vieira, there are thousands upon thousands of kids working on small dailies and weeklies, getting paid peanuts for sitting through city council and school board meetings.

      We should, by now, be used to "series" from Bob that are a mile wide and an inch deep.

      With this one so far, he is into new territory -- an inch wide and an inch deep.

    4. @ 12:13 I don't claim to be an A student, but it seems to me based on spirited defense of female writers and position on the wage gap issue that KZ/ZKoD is female.

    5. I think ZKoD is an "it."

      But unlike you, I can not seem to discern his/her/its gender or lack thereof by his "spirited defense of female writers and position on the wage gap issue."

      There are, in fact, some who took the same position, and they are male. Yours truly included.

    6. Anono"mister" @ 1:02 please accept my humble affront to your past efforts at cross gender advocacy.

    7. Those hard-working low-paid city-council-minute-sifters -- they're the ones who are really influencing us!

      Where's lousy Somerby's coverage of these real titans and their monumental role in shaping the public mind, huh?

      Get on it, KZ and KZphans!!

    8. Sorry, but if Meredith Vieira is influencing you, then you are beyond help.

      Oh, I forgot. It is all those "other" people she influences. You know, the ones who exist only in Somerby's mind so he can advance his narrative without putting any work into it.

    9. Anon @ 2:56, the ruler previously known as KZ has no interest in scribes on your planet beyond those chosen by
      BOB. We have no "phans." We have subjects.

    10. [insert ratings for The View and Today here] compare to the very important influence localcitycouncilminutesifting so sadly ignored by Somerby.

      Whine and complain about stupid Somerby's obsession with what doesn't matter.

  5. Thoreau may not have admired the stars of the modern press corps.

    I have defended Bob before, but I cannot defend his use of "may" for "might"

    1. Might I add your absent defense shall be noted, and might be missed since Bob may read comments but might not here.

    2. Thoreau may have become addicted to video games and gone on to secondary school serial killing.

  6. How does Bob know the doggie didn't defecate on the divan and the cat scratched the setee slipcovers recently?

    1. I don't think I have ever seen Bob mention a dog or cat in his life.

    2. Dogs and Cats Living Together?

  7. For readers here who are interested. Washington Montly or Washingtonian or whatever the monthly city equivalent is in DC that covers city life and fashionable living used to have and probably still does an annual issue devoted to real estate of the DC stars. It's not that detailed just assessed value, rough market value, size and a photo from the outside. But it will give you an idea of how the corporate stars live. I'm sure Bob will get around to researching it, perhaps around election day when the most pressing idea on our minds will be - the swing set in David Brook's backyard - metal or cheap plastic - were his kids deprived by that. Stay tuned for a supplemental

    1. But Bob lives in Baltimore. How will he ever learn of what is in David Brook's backyard unless Parade magazine reports it?

    2. It's David BROOKS, people, not David BROOK.

  8. She claims in the Traditional Home article that she and her husband spent most of their time sitting in the driveway, in their underwear....

    Fact check, please?

    She also doesn't consider the renovated house "grand"....uh huh...

  9. Why do those of you who dislike this blog spend so much time analyzing every word Mr. Somerby says, then spend yet more time concocting lengthy oh-so-pithy rebuttals, often in Somerby's style? Who is the lamer of the two: Bob Somerby,who thinks his own thoughts and publishes his musings in a blog, or you, who spend inordinate amounts of time responding to a blog that you so despise?
    Why don't you frequent blogs that you like, or better yet, publish your own damn blog, instead of wallowing in your negativity? Also, it's just a blog, fer Chris' sakes, not a scientific treatise. Somerby can write whatever he wants. And you don't have to read it. I enjoy reading this blog, whether I agree with it 100% of the time or not.

    1. Your commenters get results.

    2. Why do you spend so much time fretting over what others write about "just a blog" that you oh, so adore?

      After all, you are surely a free thinker yourself. Why does it bother you that others might also think for themselves and not exactly like you?