Recently I booked a flight on American Eagle. Imagine my surprise, then, when the flight attendant announced that although I was technically on an American Eagle flight, I actually was being transported by the Oneworld Alliance.
The Oneworld Alliance? It sounds like the name for a vaguely fascist global government in some near-future sci-fi novel in which the rights of individuals are crushed in the name of collective advances, but it’s actually the name of a group of airlines that includes American Airlines, as well as British Airways, Japan Air Lines, and Qantas. Oneworld caters to frequent travelers and offers mileage perks to people who travel on airlines in the alliance.
It turns out that many airlines are part of alliances that offer the same kinds of benefits, and the other two alliances have similarly evocative names. One is the Star Alliance, which sounds like the successor to the Soviet Union and includes United Airlines, US Airways, and Air Canada, among many other carriers, and the other is SkyTeam, which sounds like — and is — the spunky upstart that includes Delta, Air France, and Aeroflot and probably was the name of the defense forces in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
I’m sure there are many savvy travelers who pay careful attention to booking their travel on one alliance so as to maximize their airline miles and resulting benefits. I don’t; I just focus on out-of-pocket cost and time of departure and arrival, and I try to fly on Southwest whenever possible because they rarely cancel flights. So I didn’t care who was flying me home on that occasion — but I did feel a certain pride in knowing that, for a brief instant at least, I was a part of the Oneworld Alliance.
Yesterday the Sunday news shows were largely focused on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his staff’s decision to shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge in order to exact some kind of political retribution on a New Jersey mayor.
Some conservatives reacted by counting how many minutes the shows devoted to the New Jersey story or by comparing how much air time and how many column inches have been devoted to “Bridgegate” as opposed to incidents like the Benghazi killings or the IRS targeting conservative organizations. They contend that the news media is biased and that Republican scandals always get more attention than Democratic scandals do.
This kind of reaction is just whining, and it’s neither attractive nor convincing. Both parties do it. When the news media was reporting every day on the disastrous rollout of healthcare.gov, Democrats were doing the same thing and arguing that the media was ignoring the positive things accomplished by the Affordable Care Act. It’s a juvenile response to the news media doing its job.
The amount of coverage a story receives is largely a function of factors that have nothing to do with politics. The George Washington bridge incident has all the elements of a great story — a powerful politician, venal and misbehaving staff members, an initial cover-up, and average Americans being inconvenienced by some crass political power play. There is footage of traffic jams to be shown, angry and easy-to-find people to be interviewed, and a contrite governor’s press conference to cover. The same is true with the Obamacare website story: there are good visuals, lots of individual stories to tell, and obvious story lines to follow, like how did this happen and how much did it cost and who screwed up. Ask yourself which story is easier to cover — the New Jersey bridge closure or the shootings in faraway and dangerous Libya — and you’ll get a good sense of which story will in fact get more coverage.
Modern politicians always seem to have an excuse and always look for someone else to blame. Whining about news coverage apparently is part of the playbook, but I can’t believe it works. Whining is pathetic, not persuasive.