Inauguration 1984 2005

If you missed Paul Farhi’s Washington Post report on the “minders” that the Bush administration was kind enough to provide to reporters at the president’s various inaugural balls, stop what you’re doing, get rid of any lingering distractions, and go read it right now. (Then come back, of course.)

Farhi’s report is sharply written, laugh-out-loud funny, and, most importantly, gets at what is so insidious about having reporters trailed by watchful “escorts” as they ask partygoers such probing questions as, “Are you having a good time?” Turning serious at the end of the piece, Farhi writes:

… [T]he minders weren’t there to monitor me. They were there to let the guests, my sources on inaugural night, know that any complaint, any unguarded statement, any off-the-reservation political observation, might be noted. But maybe someday they’ll be monitoring something more important than an inaugural ball, and the source could be you.

Incidentally, Farhi was nearly thrown out of the event — twice — because he thought he should be allowed to wander unencumbered.

In other news, 32 percent of 112,003 high school students polled by the University of Connecticut say the press enjoys “too much freedom.” Thirty-six percent believe newspapers should get “government approval” of stories before publishing.

Not to worry, kids — we’re getting there.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.