the Spitzer-Newsweek deal.
In effect, Newsweek,
by reporting on Spitzer’s rehabilitation, is rehabilitating its own asset.
My curiosity here has nothing to do with whether Spitzer
should be rehabilitated or not, but with the commercial nature of the effort, and, too, the who-knows-whom-in-the-media-power-structure aspects of the comeback.
, in its cover story this week, is theoretically telling us, based on an in-depth interview with the former governor, about details of his soul-searching
and the mechanics of his redemption. What Newsweek
doesn’t say is that a major building block of Spitzer’s return to credibility and public life is to be featured on the cover of a major news magazine.
As it happens, Spitzer is openly engaged in a more or less formal comeback strategy with various entities of the Washington Post Co., of which Newsweek
is one. In addition to writing for Newsweek,
he also writes a regular column
for Slate, the Washington Post-owned website. Other than a certain coziness, there is nothing necessarily wrong here.
Still, it does suggest an interesting back story that Newsweek
isn’t telling us about. While Newsweek
does discuss how difficult it is for a politician to surmount extreme tawdriness, what it doesn't
say is that one of the differentiators among scandal subjects is the strength of his or her relationship with a major media outlet.
Indeed, Eliot Spitzer, on Newsweek’s
cover, looks not like a disgraced former governor of New York, but rather more like a deeply burdened president of the United States. Newsweek
is mythologizing as well as analyzing his plight.
Spitzer, who grew up in Manhattan with great wealth, has always had exceptionally good relationships high up inside the media world. The story of his rise has been in large measure about insiderism—he knows everybody. I once got into trouble with the governor because at a book party for a member of the New York Times
editorial board at the home of Steve Rattner (who, himself, may shortly need rehabilitation), Newsweek’s
lead writer, Jonathan Alter, introduced me to Silda Spitzer, who I wrote about in a way that her husband didn’t much like.
Craftily, and seamlessly, Spitzer has put together a relationship of mutual convenience with Newsweek
and Slate and the Washington Post Co. He is theirs—in their pages, at their parties. For Newsweek,
more and more constrained by lack of resources and purpose, the exclusive interview with Spitzer is a coup. It’s worth it to be nice to the former governor for this exclusive chat—it’s worth it to help his comeback, even to be its agent. He’s their star.
These are tough times and we all have to scratch each other’s backs.
So who’s going to offer Bernie Madoff a column?
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org