The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, January 20, 2004  

Delicate Chinese Chicken

Martha Stewart heads to federal court in Manhattan today to face trial on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and securities fraud.

Let the media frenzy begun. Or continue.

Today's coverage in the New York Times features an article in the business section that focuses primarily on Stewart's public relations and jury selection strategies. "Martha Stewart, Near Trial, Arranges Her Image," by Constance L. Hays and Leslie Eaton, is generally fair and even-handed, though is "Chinese steamed chicken" really a "delicacy"?

And not surprisingly, Hays and Eaton put forward that ridiculous old chestnut about Stewart terrorizing American women: "Many Americans revere her as an arbiter of taste; others admire the business acumen that built a billion-dollar company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. But many women resent her for setting unrealistic standards for housekeeping, crafts and dining."

One would think that two women working in publishing, albeit at a newspaper rather than a magazine, would know better; specifically, that Stewart, through her publications and television programs, is selling a fantasy, just as are the editors and publishers of every single lifestyle magazine in the country. (Architectural Digest, anyone?)

Still, this is a nice passage: "Prosecutors have said that they would have brought the same case against anyone: famous, infamous or unknown. But that argument is 'absolutely ridiculous,' said Joel M. Cohen, a former federal prosecutor now at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig. Prosecutors, he said, think the case is in the public interest because of its 'broad general deterrent value.'" (See also "Prosecutorial Abuse: The Thin -- and Dangerous -- 'Case' Against Martha Stewart," The Rittenhouse Review, January 14.)

In contrast, the New York Post yesterday published a slimy little piece in the gossip section snarking at Stewart's program honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a piece that has been picked up by other newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.

[Post-publication addendum (January 20): Julie Hilden, columnist for FindLaw, agrees with Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft that U.S. District Court Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum’s decision to bar the media from coverage of jury selection “was in error.” Futher, Hilden argues Judge Cedarbaum’s decision to offer an end-of-the-day transcript of proceedings “is not enough.”]

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