“You Can Check Out Any Time You Want, But You Can Never Leave”

Today, the Los Angeles Times’ Eric Slater writes somewhat sheepishly in his “Dispatch from Ketchum” that “this area in south-central Idaho is getting its first feel of how life would change if [Sen. John] Kerry wins the White House,” what with hordes of reporters and Secret Service agents flocking around and about Kerry.

In an effort, perhaps, to make it up to the locals, Slater offers this multi-hued lead describing all that he surveys:

The paragliders lifted silently off Bald Mountain, great birds of red and yellow in a blue sky, sailing over skiers on slopes lighted almost unimaginably bright white by the afternoon sun. Near a ski lodge, a man pedaled a green bicycle, his young son on the handlebars. Two brown dogs wrestled in the snow.

It was all so much colorful nirvana, except for the spooky black Suburbans and the guys with the guns.

(Now that caught Campaign Desk’s attention. Is Slater writing a news dispatch, or the pitch for a screenplay he’s flogging back in Hollywood? )

Like others in the press who have paraglided into Ketchum to cover Kerry’s weeklong vacation, Slater goes on to sprinkle his story with these bits of now-familiar local color: Ernest Hemingway killed himself here; other skiers have been heard taunting Kerry, who is not the only ski-loving celebrity who frequents the area; Teresa Heinz Kerry’s expensive local home is made from imported wood.

While Slater’s colorful Times story bears the lackluster headline “Political Spotlight on Sun Valley”, a headline writer for the weekly Ketchum-based Idaho Mountain Express, showed more zip. He or she topped that paper’s package of two stories with this stunner:

“Kerry Shreds Baldy”

(Campaign Desk assumes this is a reference to Kerry’s athletic adventures on Bald Mountain and not Ketchum-ese for the Kerry camp’s cutting replies to Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticisms last week.)

The Express’ Greg Stahl also provides a detail in his coverage that reporters from faraway places left out — certain news that inconvenienced locals no doubt may find useful:

“In addition to traveling with his wife and staff members, Kerry was accompanied by an entourage of 16 reporters from national newspapers and television news stations. The reporters were booked into rooms at the Wood River Inn in Hailey.” (Emphasis ours.)

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.