Brokaw, meet Brutus

Some journalists have allowed too much celebrity to creep into their careers.
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If you want to prove your journalistic bona fides, there’s no better way than to take on one of the gravest threats that our nation faces: Lindsay Lohan.

And that’s just what Tom Brokaw did recently when he lashed out at the troubled actress in advance of this spring’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The former NBC “Nightly News” anchor took issue with Lohan’s presence at the 2012 dinner, as the guest of Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.

“The breaking point for me was Lindsay Lohan,” Brokaw told Politico. “She became a big star at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Give me a break.”

You can view a portion of the interview here:

Brokaw, who was a Washington reporter during Watergate, hasn’t attended the dinner for years. But watching it on C-SPAN, he said, he wondered what “an interested citizen” in Kansas City, Little Rock or Spokane would think of the Washington press corps given Lohan’s presence, noting that there “was more dignity at my daughter’s junior prom.”

To have a successful evening, he wondered, why do “you have to have Donald Trump as your guest of honor, for example, or Lindsay Lohan?” At the same time, Brokaw noted that he wasn’t talking about actress Claire Danes (“She’s a big deal.”) or actor George Clooney (“He’s a serious guy in Hollywood.”)

“But it’s gone down-market, in my judgment, in too many ways.”

So apparently it’s not about the presence of Hollywood stars, but which ones.

The fact that Brokaw singled out Lohan for his scorn without challenging any of his journalist colleagues by name says far more about the state of journalism than anything that Lohan’s mere presence at a dinner would suggest.

Look, I’m no Lohan apologist. But she’s not the threat to the Fourth Estate that Brokaw makes her out to be. She’s a train wreck who has been great fodder for news organizations for years. At this point, she’s more to be pitied than pilloried.

No, what Brokaw didn’t say is the real story here. After all, he would offend a good number of them if he challenged the cozy relationships that too many of them have with the entertainment industry.

Did you catch the season finale of “Saturday Night Live”? That was CNN’s Anderson Cooper playing himself in a “Weekend Update” bit.

But this is not a new phenomenon.

  • Brian Williams, Brokaw’s successor on “Nightly News,” hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2007 (he was pretty funny) and made frequent appearances on NBC’s “30 Rock.” (His daughter is an aspiring actress.)
  • Katie Couric, formerly Brokaw’s colleague at NBC, played a prison guard in “Austin Powers in Goldmember.”
  • Christiane Amanpour, currently of CNN and ABC, has played herself on TV’s “Gilmore Girls” and in the movies “Iron Man 2” and “Pink Panther 2.”
  • Bob Costas has lent his voice to “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” and “Cars,” and has appeared on TV’s “Monk” and in that 2001 cinematic classic “Pootie Tang.” But, you say, he’s a sports guy, it’s different for them. Except that Costas won the 2012 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.

In fact, the aforementioned are all bright, talented, successful people. But they have done journalism a disservice by allowing too much celebrity to creep into their careers.

When Brokaw disses Lohan, I think of CBS News legend Edward R. Murrow, invoking Shakespeare, confronting the conditions under which McCarthyism was allowed to flourish in the 1950s.

“The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay … and whose fault is that? Not really his; he didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ “

By extension, I offer this:

“The fault, dear Mr. Brokaw, is not in the Hollywood stars, but in the journalists who so desperately want to be among them.”

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