Chelsea Clinton has a new job.  (Insert joke here.)

Chelsea Clinton is returning to Washington—this time in a leadership role. The former first daughter has been named the Honorary Chair of the 2013 National Day of Service and will headline a summit on the National Mall on Saturday to launch President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Note the word Honorary.  Notwithstanding Chelsea’s excellence at turning legitimate political questions into Clintonian putdowns of the questioner, Honorary is a tacit acknowledgement that organizers are renting her name in the same way that charity dinners “honor” someone famous.  Indeed, NBC has been renting Chelsea for over a year.

Nepotism has been with us since long before the 17th century.  But it’s particularly prevalent in Hollywood and politics because name-brand awareness is literally the difference between anonymity and success.

Still, I hadn’t realized how important branding was to almost everything in the media until last spring, when I was promoting my latest book, about a true-crime incident in mid-1950s Los Angeles having to do with the press, the LAPD, and racism.  It uncovered a riveting history of everyone’s favorite noir era and place that no one had ever heard.  So why did major media largely ignore the book?

The question was answered accidentally when a producer told the book’s publicist that the host of a significant show—on PBS!—had nixed my appearance because I didn’t have a Twitter following.  True.  At the time I’d never thought to bother with Twitter.  (Feel free to follow me.)

Television and radio shows used to loan their audiences to a guest.  Now, they insist that guests bring their audience to the shows.

As do major newspapers.  On any given day, what the New York Times considers worthy of coverage depends on what and who are trending, just as who and what are trending depend on what the papers cover.

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be unbranded.  If you want to see your politics better reflected in the major media, get on Twitter and follow the people you’d like to see more of.  Otherwise, expect more of this:

Historically I deliberately tried to live a private life in the public eye,” [Chelsea Clinton] told Vogue magazine in August. “And now I am trying to lead a purposefully public life.”

Chelsea has 72,000 Twitter followers—about 5,000 more than her mother.