Who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

I don't mean that in a partisan sense. But rather I ask the question in terms of journalism and newsworthiness.

Oops, I wrote the exact same thing one month ago. But I don't mind repeating myself: why does the press, 11 years after Gingrich left office, seem to treat his every partisan utterance as a newsworthy occurrence?

It's odd. Not only was Gingrich effectively driven from Congress more than ten years ago, but I can't think of a single Bush initiative from this decade that had Gingrich's fingerprints on it. Now, Newt can't be bothered with running for office any more and he doesn't seem to represent any larger institution. So why has the D.C. press corps carved out a special niche for what's-Newt-thinking-today coverage?

And guess who's leading the charge in (fake) Gingrich news? Politico, of course.

April 5, from Politico:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told "Fox News Sunday" that he would have disabled the long-range missile before North Korea launched it, saying too many people "do not appreciate the scale of the threat that is evolving on the planet."

April 6, Politico breathlessly reported:

"The U.S. is at greater risk of terrorist attack because of the Obama administration's actions," Newt Gingrich said Monday.

Again, where's the news? What is Gingrich's standing in American politics that requires Politico to provide almost daily updates on the failed House Speaker's often partisan proclamations?

Gingrich was critical of Obama in recent days? We're pretty sure he was critical of the president last month and will be critical next month, and probably will be for the next 40-plus months. Tune in to Fox News and watch it at your leisure.

But my original journalism question still stands: who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks? Where's the news?

UPDATE: Yesterday during his online chat with readers, WashPost media critic Howard Kurtz was asked why Gingrich's utterances are considered newsworthy. Here's how Kurtz responded:

First, Newt is on the air several times a week as a Fox News contributor. Second, there is a vacuum, which is not uncommon for the party out of power, and Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are not seen as the world's most exciting television personalities. But perhaps more important is that Gingrich, who honed the skill before he became speaker, is quite adept at drawing media attention. He knows how to frame an issue or ratchet up his rhetoric in a way that will generate headlines. And he has a big platform to do that with his regular appearances on Hannity and O'Reilly, where he always appears alone and therefore is never challenged by another guest.

So Gingrich has somehow cracked the code for generating headlines? He has concocted some rhetorical formula so that when he speaks, reporters are forced to type it up as news? I don't buy it.

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