Legacies, Celebrities, and Media Skanks

NBC news correspondent Jenna Bush Hager had a news exclusive. And, like news exclusives in the Era of Infotainment TV, this one was broadcast by the entertainment division. Specifically, Jenna Bush interviewed her mother, Laura Bush, on 38th episode of The Jay Leno Show.

It makes no difference what the questions or answers were. Journalism hasn’t been a priority of television for a long time. What matters is that a network hired someone with no background into a job with an income substantially above what most journalists earn. Jenna Bush isn’t the only one to parlay dubious credentials onto network television. Beauty pageants—it makes no difference if it’s the Miss Rutabaga or Miss America contests—are full of contestants who say their ambition is to be a TV anchor—or an actress, whichever comes first.

Now, Jenna Bush, in her mid-20s, had also become a best-selling author, something that rarely happens even to the best writers. HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch of Fox News fame, printed an initial 500,000 copies of Ana’s Story in 2007. The press run was about 100 times greater than the average run of a first book by even a good writer. A year later, HarperCollins published a children’s book co-written by Jenna Bush and Laura Bush, who promoted their books on the major talk shows, including The Tonight Show, with Jay Leno. Thousands of publicists and authors literally beg to get network exposure. Most books that do get published can be found in the remainder bins—or recycling bins – within a year of publication—if the author is fortunate enough to even secure a contract.

The Bushes aren’t the only celebrities who have written children’s books. Among dozens of celebrities who easily found publishers for their children’s books were Julie Andrews, Bill Cosby, Katie Couric, Jamie Lee Curtis, LL Cool J, Jay Leno, Will Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, and even Shaquille O’Neal.

Superstar pro athletes can often get book deals in the six- and seven-figure range. Among them are 7-foot-5 NBA star Yao-Minh, whose command of English is minimal, but who scored a $1.5 million advance for his autobiography; and Dennis Rodman, aided by a fluorescent-hued hair, multi-body tattoos, and a seven-figure advance, who wore a dress and feather boa in Detroit and a wedding dress in Manhattan to promote his own in-your-face autobiography. O.J. Simpson was a cross-over—a superstar pro athlete and a criminal. Criminals whose stories make the front pages, and who while in prison “find” religion and do a great job of feigning repentance, can often secure book deals.

Thousands of 20-something students and recent graduates have worked extremely hard, usually in anonymity, to earn internships, many of them unpaid, in the media or in government. However, unlike most interns, Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton’s presidential playmate, became a best-selling author. And, like other celebrity-authors, she was able to parlay her notoriety into numerous talk show appearances, all of which helped promote Monica’s Story and more than $2 million in income.

Add Paris Hilton to the list. In 2004, she secured a book contract for an autobiography, reflecting her entire 23 year life of entitlement and near uselessness. Of course, the book became a New York Times best-seller.

At one time, “legacy children,” the ones whose parents or grandparents earned fame or fortune, would have settled for being admitted to the parents’ Ivy League colleges, even if minimally qualified, and then getting some job in the family business. But, the omnipotence of the mass media has given the entitled darlings other opportunities. Chances are there’s a TV gig or a book contract somewhere in their futures. And all that this says is that those who work hard to learn and perfect their craft, perhaps to contribute ideas to society, and hoped-for mass distribution, will probably continue a life of anonymity while buried by the train wrecks that have become the mass media.

Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications, has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, and his latest Fracking Pennsylvania. He can be contacted at: walterbrasch@gmail.com. Read other articles by Walter, or visit Walter's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Leslie Jones said on November 10th, 2009 at 9:51am #

    train wrecks indeed.

  2. bozh said on November 10th, 2009 at 10:11am #

    It is unamerican not to make money any way one can. It is also unamerican fora rich and well-known person not to help another well-known person make money or keep it in focus.
    Promulgation-propagation of the personality cult is one of the structural members of the oppressive system of life in most lands; reaching its apex of oppression and misteachings in US. tnx

  3. Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said on November 10th, 2009 at 10:19am #

    Welcome to American society…

  4. kalidas said on November 10th, 2009 at 10:57am #

    “A society of cheaters and the cheated.”

  5. Don Hawkins said on November 10th, 2009 at 11:58am #

    We all are writing a book here on DV and who reads it? Many. The book of new Knowledge and much more on the way. The knowledge the new knowledge for defense never for attack and the last person out of Detroit don’t forget to turn the lights out. Tuff day’s ahead.

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way

  6. Amerikagulag said on November 10th, 2009 at 12:54pm #

    Well, the way i see it, if you turn off the TeeVee and put down the tabloid papers, you wouldn’t see Jenna interviewing Laura. I wasn’t even aware of it because I only barely know who Jay Leno is.

    By even mentioning the Leno show you lend credence to the sponge-food industry. The only way to change it is to turn it off. Americans love celebrities because they secretly long for a monarchy.

  7. Hue Longer said on November 10th, 2009 at 3:59pm #

    Hello Walter,

    I think going back to the days when someone just armed with guts and a sense of justice gets the gig. I don’t care that your students can’t find work after going through the credential machine. Kind of like how all the music leaves the room when the money comes in, so do all the good journalists.

  8. bozh said on November 10th, 2009 at 5:28pm #

    “society of cheated and cheaters”. Yes.

  9. Rehmat said on November 10th, 2009 at 5:50pm #

    Toronto singer and songwriter writer David Hein instead of writing imaginary stories for children – decided to tell his own story in the play, “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding” – to expose much Judaism is being misinterpreted by its followers.


  10. onecansay said on November 10th, 2009 at 8:45pm #

    Walter, as a member of the journalism crowd, you know one should not start sentences with “And”! I, born of immigrants whom could not speak English, have at least been taught this small lesson. These so called “celebrities” have also lowered the bar of those whom they cover, or maybe “cover up”.

  11. walt brasch said on November 11th, 2009 at 3:40am #

    Hi, Onecansay — Sorry to break the bubble that some comp teacher may have placed around you, but it is perfectly acceptable in professional writing to begin sentences with prepositions or conjunctions — or to end a sentence with a preposition. We don’t do it often, and it can be abused, but the “prescriptivists” usually aren’t writers, and have made up rules that just don’t work in professional writing. Nevertheless, I admire you for probably being bilingual–and able to write a coherent comment. /walt

  12. onecansay said on November 11th, 2009 at 3:44pm #

    Walter, thank you for your insight as well as your kind words. The world turns as each one interprets. The dynamics seem to be the problem! Regards.

  13. russell olausen said on November 11th, 2009 at 7:51pm #

    It should embarrass anyone with pretensions of intellect to admit any concourse with the above plus Dan Brown. However, the inbred and admirers of the inbred should fill their boots, for just as society has sunk so low it may inexplicably rise, drowning the ignorant. Oh, happy day.