"Scandal is our growth industry. ... scandals metastasize, ramify, self-replicate, clogging the cable news shows and the blogosphere and the bookstores. The titillating story that never ends, the pundit gabfest that never ceases, the gift that never stops giving ..."
That's from Mark Danner's Sunday essay in the NY Review of Books. He rips the tattered mythology of the Relentless, Idealistic Journalist and the Political Idealist as he tries to instead stitch together the various parts and players which make up (in his mind) The Monster among us.
"However tenaciously the mythmakers of our society—and especially journalists, who are after all the stars of this idealized drama—cling to this happy scenario, recent history has not been kind to it. For it rests on an image of journalists and journalism that has become, to put it charitably, outdated. Journalists as the self-abnegating seekers after truth, defenders of society's conscience: had this happy description ever been true, even during Watergate, it now bears little resemblance to the scandal-mongering world of cable news shows and gabfests, for which scandal, the gaudier the better, provides the vast and complicated narratives that are the lifeblood of the twenty-four-hour news cycles. As the first Persian Gulf War begot CNN so did Monica Lewinsky's pouty lips beget Fox News."
Full essay here.
I don't think I can buy into the idea that Scandal has devolved into Commercial Product due to failures in reporting or news, or their need to earn money, or loss of some guiding abilities. The public domain has always held Scandal in high regard - as both diverting entertainment and morality play. Bread and circuses have often kept Power safe. So said the 2nd century writer Juvenal in his "Satire X":
"Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; or the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions -- everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."
Perhaps the 'growth industry' arises most from the Jabbering Fear Fest on talk radio, from ex-felon G. Gordon Liddy to Rush Limbaugh to Michell Malkin. Manufacturing "outrage" is far more valuable than scandal, since outrage can exist with no evidence or cause other than a simple visceral dislike.