Sketch this, M.C. Escher: News subject covers reporter as reporter covers the news

An email popped up about a month ago, with a link to Facebook.

“Here you are at our press briefing this morning,” it said.

And sure enough, there was a shot of the news subject — in this case a government official — being interviewed by a nameless (and reasonable) reporter, along with a blurb about the event.

“News covers reporter covering news,” the Reasonable Reporter responded. “It’s like an M.C. Escher drawing.”

The Reasonable Reporter added that she has thus far declined to post her own mug on Facebook, hinting that it’s a conscious choice, despite various social pressures, and in defiance of threats she will be reduced to a fraction of her current status as a footnote in the annals of journalism.

The tone, let’s say, was one of restrained displeasure.

“Get used to it,” the reply came back.

Twice since then, the news has covered the reporter, while the reporter was covering the news.

It goes like this: At the center is the story– the action.  There are reporters covering the action, and at the periphery, the PR folks are taking photos of the reporters covering the action.  In a grassroots situation, it’s the guy who’s been to the social media seminar, or the most technically proficient volunteer.

The Reasonable Reporter becomes suddenly and uncomfortably aware she’s in the sights of a professional-strength camera lens, with busy fingers clicking away at the other end.

Epic concentration is required to focus on the story while resisting the impulse to stop, and turn to the photographer, and shout “Hey, I’m not the story here. You all are the story.”

But of course, they are creating their own story, and covering it themselves as they create it.

Why? Because they can. Failing to respect that, the Reasonable Reporter would be a sorry excuse for the First Amendment absolutist she claims to be. Arguably, though, there’s a difference between advocates of a cause, who ceaselessly hope for media attention and struggle to get it, and government entities, most of which can summon the press with an hour’s notice, as often as they care to.

Contemplating that brings to mind two phrases.  “Above my pay grade,” and “Get used to it.”

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