William Powers nails it in theNational Journal (temporary link) with his analysis of the feeding freenzy that occurs when bad things happen to people that reporters already assume are bad because they are rich or powerful.
Our newest and most promising target is an alarmingly successful woman we’ve been circling for years, Martha Stewart . From the beginning, something about old Martha got under journalists’ skin. She was too talented, too attractive, too confident, too rich — in short, just too perfect for our taste. Perfect people make everyone feel bad. And when journalists feel bad, they do something about it. There were any number of rumors, and some hard evidence, that Martha Stewart wasn’t nearly as flawless as she wanted us to believe, that she might even be a secret bad person. Over the years, this became the encoded message of much of the journalism about her and her business empire. When elite journalists discussed her success, they tended to do so in a backhanded way, as a suspicious kind of success, about which one should have principled doubts and concerns.
As I’ve said before, in America we worship success and curse the successful.