On Sundays, Gothamist runs opinion pieces on issues relevant to life in New York. The views expressed below are solely those of the author.

gothamist.jpgThere’s a lot of talk on all sides of the political spectrum that the mainstream media is biased, that the press has a secret something-wing agenda that it is trying to put forward. Republicans point to the overwhelming number of Democrats in the press corps, though this entirely mirrors the political bent of intellectuals in America (and, especially, New York.) Democrats gnash their teeth when reporters fail to explicitly say that the President is a liar, as if this wouldn’t cross any lines.

I’ve many friends in the press and I’ve found them all to be quite honest people, oddly so. They would matter-of-factly say that they won’t review books that I had written, for example, because of conflict of interest. When I’ve been interviewed in different outlets no reporter has ever done a hatchetjob or taken things I’ve said out of context. So when this happened to me quite recently, and in such an extreme way, I literally almost couldn’t believe it.

Channel 7 News—ABC for you non-NYers—wanted to a piece on my website Overheard in New York. My partner and I met with the reporter for an interview and discussed what the site was about. We had some explaining to do to the woman who did not know what Google meant. No, it did not cost anything to “log on” to our site. Gawker was a popular site about New York media. She did not blink when I claimed, deadpan, that “the internet is the wave of the future.” I handed her a copy of our upcoming book. Flipping it open, she challenged whether a speaker being quoted was one of “Osama’s lesser known wives.” Those headlines, I said slowly, were jokes. Tongue-in-cheek.

We got b-roll of us looking through the site; when I raised the issue that the site is riddled with profanity, she assured me that the text was too small to be visible on screen. She took notes. It was all very grown up.

The next night I received a call from a friend, hysterically laughing. Fortunately I was taping Lost while watching Martha, so I rewound to see us mentioned in Channel 7’s commercial. The announcer said, “Your most private conversations on a website...a shocker!” I do not know how anyone’s private conversations would make it to our site. If they’re within earshot of strangers, surely that would make them public—almost by definition. They flashed a screenshot; they flashed the word “nigga.”

The piece itself described us as “one of the hottest new [sic] websites” and “quite controversial.” A man on the street was interviewed to defend us as a means of “bringing New Yorkers together.” A woman said she thought the site “too nosy” and “unnecessary”, a word which is practically a synonym for blogs. As the report ended, the two anchors shook their head in fear that their discussions would make it on-line. I suspected that I knew why Sam Champion seemed so unhappy.

Two days later that acutely fringe publication, the Reader’s Digest, asked to run an excerpt from the site in an upcoming issue. I mention this because it makes the preceding even more absurd.

My point here is a simple one. The media does have an agenda, yes. But it’s not a political one drafted by scheming Machiavellians. Things are pretty good in this country, and sometimes boringness is to be preferred to the alternative. Their job is to take things that are fun, and silly, and even lame, and to make it seem like news. When their reports are full of adrenaline and breathlessness, they’re not being manipulative for the sake of manipulation. For better or worse, they’re just doing their jobs.

"Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story" will be published by Ballantine in March.