Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Binders": the biggest non-story of the election

When Mitt Romney said his now famous line, "binders full of women," I knew exactly what he meant.

Because I used to have a box full of women.

And a box full of men.

And a box full of sports anchors.

And a box full of meteorologists.

Oh my God, I had boxes full of people. The horror! Yes, this makes me an evil, evil man.

When you're staffing a newsroom, as I once did, you have to divide up the resume tapes. So I got a bunch of boxes and put the tapes in the appropriate box. Male anchors, female anchors, etc. Most NDs do similar stuff. Consultants and agents do the same thing. Call up an agent and tell him you need a female anchor, and poof! You've got another box full of women.

Sometimes you can even take a box full of women home with you, and your wife doesn't bat an eye. Then again, she didn't bat an eye when I brought home a box full of men so I could watch tapes in peace.

Of course, in any other business that doesn't use resume tapes, the people who work in Inhuman Resources collect paper resumes and store them in... wait for it... binders.

There are two points to be made, one about quotas and the other about non-stories.

First, if you don't think there's a quota system in this country, you've obviously time-warped here from the fifties. Just look around your newsroom and you see a melting pot. Every station in American looks for a certain demographic when hiring. They might need a white male one time, a minority woman the next. Of course, no one will ever admit that, as it's the dirty little secret of the business and will get you sued. But it's true of every business in America.

Second, we live in an era in which someone, somewhere, will be offended no matter what happens. I once did a heart warming story about a guy in a wheelchair, a very inspirational piece. During the story I used the phrase "confined to a wheelchair." Some viewer who was in a wheelchair called and reamed me out, saying she was horribly offended because she was "liberated by her wheelchair, not confined." It didn't matter that I was trying to do a nice story. She wanted to be offended.

And so do a lot of people. Some people just look for words to twist to make someone look bad.

So do some news people.

When the Sopranos first started airing people asked me if I was offended by it. After all, it stereotyped all Italians as being in the Mafia. After breaking their kneecaps I responded that I was not bothered by it at all.

Look, I'm not trying to stick up for one candidate here, but be honest: this "story" is ridiculous. We have a big election coming up, and in the coming weeks our news coverage needs to focus on the issues: the economy, foreign policy, health care. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if Romney looked at resumes in a binder or Obama likes to play a lot of golf? Does anyone really care about a poll that asks which candidate would be best to babysit your children?

Can we please stick to real issues?


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