The Observer assembled a story headlined "Twilight Of The Media Idols," keyed to a woe-is-big-media panel discussion at the Time Warner Center. Trouble is, many "media idols" seemed to be basking in a sunny glow: Time Warner Chairman Dick Parsons and Comedy Central host Lewis Black were bounding around with their entourages, Richard Stengel of Time proclaimed a "golden age" for "quality content" and the likes of Candy Crowley (CNN) and even Hillary Clinton strategist Mark Penn were inundated with j-school groupies. But the Observer's men did find the perfect foil amid the moguls: Sad former Times editor Howell Raines, who couldn't even get anyone to look at him. Apparently his Portfolio column hasn't given him any media cred. The scene:
After the session, more than two dozen or so people were waiting for Ms. Crowley, Mr. Penn and Time’s Mark Halperin. Mr. Raines, who was eagerly trying to make eye contact with many of those people waiting, was mostly left alone.
“I miss New York,” he said, “but unless you’re going to work here every day, you fall out of habit of having the muscle to live here.”
A few minutes later, he was making his way through the 10th floor and heading toward the elevator banks, talking about how much he missed the food in New York and how difficult it is to find a good restaurant in his home in the woods in Pennsylvania; he was headed back there after driving in that morning.
He went down the elevator and spilled out onto 58th Street. Every media player, large and small, who walked in and out of the building that day—Dick Parsons, Glenn Beck, Lewis Black—was flanked with an entourage and had a determined spring to their step.
Mr. Raines was alone. He began to walk toward Ninth Avenue, stopped, flipped open his cell phone, shut it again. Then he started in the opposite direction down 58th Street, toward the park.
Do not think it can't happen to you, old media mogul! In fact, it surely will happen to you.
Hell, it'll happen, someday, to all of us. The question is "when." And the only way to get a clue to the answer is to go to dreadful things like panel discussions.
Maybe Howell Raines doesn't have it so bad after all.