George Santos as Case Study

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George Santos as Case Study

By Jaci Clement, jaci@fairmediacouncil.org

Kevin McCarthy is having a bad week. That’s good news for Long Island. How’s that? It drops us from №1 in suffering public humiliation and slides us into a close second.

Of course, I refer to how the news dropped the ball and enabled an imposter to get elected to Congress. There’s no excuse for that. And, in hindsight, there were clues being dropped around the mediasphere, which is now so fragmented that no one noticed.

To be fair, props to The Daily Beast, which had a piece way back in April on the weirdly close proximity between George Santos and a Ponzi scheme. The New York Times should take a bow for busting the story open — although we really would have preferred for that to happen before good people headed to the polls. In between, there were lukewarm hints dropped on Twitter.

Pessimists (and by that I mean journalists) will tell you this story signifies the death of local news. Optimists will tell you this story underscores why your local news is so important. Most will agree “this wouldn’t have happened” if more bodies were working inside each and every newsroom. Of that, I’m not so sure. Anyone adamant that Newsday would never have missed this story “back in the day” when it had a much larger newsroom has conveniently forgotten how it was The Times that broke the Long Island Rail Road pension scandal, which dated all the way back to the 1990s. In that timeframe, Newsday’s newsroom was larger than The Times.

For all the journalists who are rightly taking it on the chin for missing this story, here are two things to note: First, we can’t go back in time so what’s important now is how you rebound. Second, at least your editorial board didn’t endorse the guy. (You can say that as long as you don’t work for The New York Post.)

To note that Santos is now under intense scrutiny is an understatement. But despite the volume of headlines, there are many serious questions not yet answered. Among them: Who is this guy? Why did the party back him, especially if his fabulist ways were an open secret? What’s the strategy behind that and more importantly, what’s the end game?

The next generation of headlines needs to progress from Santos as the lone story and hone in on Santos as the symptom and symbol of a broken system, in American politics, society, and media.