Just as ambitious professional pols, flacks and wonks climb and clamber over each other for the chance to get hired up by a newly-elected governor, so too do nosy, pushy media types compete for position on the inside track.
For every grubby consultant or policy propeller head who sees himself as a future Karl Rove or the next Austin Goolsbee, there’s an ill-clad foot soldier in the daily war of words whose assignment to cover the new guy from Day One offers a fresh-as-spring-training opportunity to shine.
Working in the spotlight dawn of a nationally watched, nascent administration provides ink-stained types a rare promise of twinkling career possibilities, from book contracts (see: Cannon, Lou) to national TV gigs (“As you know, Rachel, there are many Jerry Browns”), perhaps even a prominent plug on Calbuzz itself (plenty of free parking!)
So it is that our Department of Media Communications and Clip Job Commentary has kept a close eye on news coverage of the first days of Jerry Brown III. We’re watchful for potential signs of breakout media stardom among the pack of hacks who churn out the daily grind of reportage on all the twists, turns and incremental developments that shape the narratives about the 72-year old Silver Fox (here’s hoping they remember the Little People they met on the way up).
Welcome Budgeteers! To date among this lustrous field, we tip our fedoras to the energetic Shane Goldmacher of the LAT, who’s so far had the best inside pipeline and strongest reporting on Brown’s budget strategy, the only story that matters right now, and a yarn to which Chronicler-turned-blogger Greg Lucas has added his considerable institutional knowledge and insight.
Lucas racked up a series of Hardest-Workin’-Man-in-Show Business awards in his salad days, and so hardly qualifies as a callow youth; truth be told, he’s approaching full geezerdom at an ever-accelerating rate. Still, his new gig as a regular commentator at Capitol Weekly, which complements his regular postings at California’s Capitol, seems to have brightened his scribbling style and infused him with a spurt, if not a full-flowing fountain, of youthful energy, viz. his recent Sally Quinn-like takeout on how Brown’s ascendance and Arnold’s departure are changing the social culture of Sacramento:
On the most superficial level, one obvious thing that’s vanished from the corner office in 2011 is hair. Burnt Sienna. Brooding mahogany. All gone. Less is more. Bald is beautiful. What other reason explains John Laird being named resources cabinet secretary?
Cowboy boots. Mood rings. Designer suits. All gone….
Governor’s office staff also appears to be out. Particularly videographers. Didn’t have those in the ’70s, why would they be needed now? Also out: human resources personnel. Apparently the 39th governor will just pop by the Office Max on 17th and J Street on his way into work to buy pencils and carbon paper….
Schnitzel is yesterday. Now it’s organic greens, usually eaten off someone else’s plate. Bean dip. Mexican food. Mom-and-pop Asian joints. Lazy Susan’s – makes it easier to get at other people’s food – are all also in the ascendancy.
Cigar smoking? Not so much. Smoking Tent? Hasta la vista.
Hummers and SUVs. Think Crown Victoria….
Hollywood stars – including Oprah and Jay Leno – are also history. Policy wonks now rule. St. Ignatius and Josiah Royce rock way harder than Wag Bennett and Danny DeVito. Treadmills trump free weights. Didactics over sound bites. Improvisation over intricately crafted production…
Also on the outs, at least at the moment, are tweets, press releases and the governor’s official website. Perhaps, as Brown famously said, he simply prefers to wait for “reality to emerge.”
Mr. Fly-on-the-Wall: For our money, though, the media MVP of the early going has been the indefatigable David Siders of the Bee, who’s provided a flurry of print and online pieces, the best of which embroider solid policy reporting with little gems of observed detail which reflect a well-developed eye for the absurd, crucial to giving readers a full look at the whimsical singularity of Jerry Brown.
Out of the gate, Siders stomped the competition in owning the story about Sutter the Corgi, Tryout First Canine of the First Couple; among other things the scoop artist got himself in position on inauguration night to capture this Jerry-being-Jerry bit:
Late Monday night, long after his inauguration was done and the parties died down, Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, were together on the sidewalk outside their downtown loft.
They were walking a Corgi dog belonging to Brown’s sister, which Gust-Brown called “cute,” and Brown called “half a rat.”
The remark was likely meant warmly. Hours earlier, an aide walking out of a post-inauguration reception inside the horseshoe was heard on a cell phone saying, “Jerry wants to know if there is anyone in his building who can get in to walk his dog. Is there anyone there who can do that?”
Despite his late night exertions, Siders was the first man on the scene at the governor’s office the next morning, turning out even before semi-chief-of-staff Jim Humes showed up at 7:30 a.m.
So by the time the governor himself showed up, Siders was well positioned to quiz Krusty on the burning question of what he planned to do with Arnold’s abandoned 800-lb bronze bear, and to record for posterity his you-kids-get-off-my-lawn reaction:
Brown: “What do you think we should do with it?”
Reporter: “Let kids climb on it.”
Brown: “Do we let kids climb on this? I don’t think this is too fun. That’s something we’re going to work on in the next few days.”
Pinocchio’s burrito: Siders also was first to figure out how to report responsibly the tricky story that Brown has ordered the size of his security detail reduced, something insiders had whispered about for several days but nobody had written.
He got the story the old-fashioned way: he asked the governor directly. Brown immediately confirmed the new policy, giving Siders a memorable on-point quote that summed up the whole People’s Governor approach that instantly changed the atmosphere of the Capitol.
“I don’t like a lot of entourage,” said Brown, who was walking downstairs at the Capitol for a burrito..
The burrito also figured in a telling little vignette that Siders witnessed by again being in the right place at the right time:
Brown, heading downstairs to the basement cafeteria this afternoon for a rice, cheese and bean burrito, was met in the hallway by Visalia tourists Berta Mendez-Perez and Jose Perez and their children Sofia, 5; Diego, 8; and Alexandra, 10.
“We voted for you,” Mendez-Perez said.
Brown asked the children, “Did you follow the campaign?”
“You saw the TV commercials?” Brown asked.
“Did you see the one with the nose growing?” Brown said. “Her nose started growing because she wasn’t telling the truth. Your nose will grow, too, if you don’t tell the truth.”
And stay off my lawn, too.