Monday, November 3, 2008
Did The Media Fall For Obama? ". . . young and ethnically diverse reporters and editors go easier on candidates who look more like them."
Media Credibility, Douglas MacKinnon, Opinion Column, New York Times, November 2, 2008,
After the presidential election is over and the dust, animosity, glee and shock settle into something manageable, the nation will need to tackle the subject of “media bias” in a sincere and honest manner. As an “independent conservative,” I’m expected to see liberal media bias lurking everywhere, but it’s not just me — and it’s not just conservatives. I know liberals, including newspaper editors, who think the “news” pendulum had swung dangerously far to the left.
Beyond recent studies by the Pew Research Center and the Project for Excellence in Journalism, other research shows that the media has tilted to the left; indeed journalists themselves have openly admitted as much. Under the recent headline “Why McCain Is Getting Hosed in the Press,” Politico editors John F. Harris and Jim Vandehei opined:
OK, let’s just get this over with: Yes, in the closing weeks of this election, John McCain and Sarah Palin are getting hosed in the press, and at Politico. And, yes, based on a combined 35 years in the news business we’d take an educated guess — nothing so scientific as a Pew study — that Obama will win the votes of probably 80 percent or more of journalists covering the 2008 election. Most political journalists we know are centrists — instinctually skeptical of ideological zealotry — but with at least a mild liberal tilt to their thinking, particularly on social issues. So what?
“So what?” Those two cavalier words alone speak to the larger problem. Who cares if “80 percent or more of journalists covering the 2008 election” will vote for Barack Obama? Journalists, their editors, management, the candidates and the American people should care.
Regarding the Obama phenomenon and the media fascination with him, a senior staffer for a rival Democrat primary opponent offered up this theory to me for part of the bias. This person reasoned that the pressure within the news business to diversify and be politically correct means more minorities, women and young people are being hired. And young and ethnically diverse reporters and editors go easier on candidates who look more like them, are closer to their age or represent their ideal of a presidential candidate.
Over at ABCnews.com, Michael S. Malone, a columnist, posted an article last week that created a firestorm of comment and interest. In part, he wrote: “The traditional media are playing a very, very dangerous game — with their readers, with the Constitution and with their own fates. The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling.”
Mr. Malone then uses the rest of his post to explain why he feels so. For me and others, one of the most important points he raises is when he talks about the dangerous game the traditional media is playing with “their own fate.” Indeed, I — as well as two newspaper editors I know — would argue that one reason newspapers are seeing a decline in circulation is because they ignore or marginalize right-of-center or conservative readers.
On Friday, in an article about Mr. Obama’s infomercial, Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post media critic, wrote: “If the press were inclined to hammer the Democratic nominee for buying the election after blowing off public financing, the infomercial would be Exhibit A. But the press is giving him a pass on the issue.”
Earlier that week, and on the direct topic of media bias in favor of Mr. Obama, he wrote: “If, as a former McCain strategist put it, “the cake is baked” for his man’s defeat, it’s fair to ask whether the media have provided the flour, the frosting and the candles.”
And from the West Coast, we have this timely and germane observation. The Hollywood Reporter noted that, “In a room full of television industry executives, no one seemed inclined to defend MSNBC on Monday for what some were calling its lopsidedly liberal coverage of the presidential election.” Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, a self-described liberal and close friend of the Clinton’s punctuated the belief by saying that she would prefer a lunch date with right-leaning Fox News host Sean Hannity over MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. According to the report, one aspect of the coverage that bothered Ms. Bloodworth-Thomason and others was the way MSNBC — and other media — has attacked Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and demeaned her supporters.
Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean of Boston University’s College of Communication, said, as reported by Mr. Kurtz in his media column: “If the mainstream media are wrong about Obama and the voters pull a Truman, that is going to be the end of whatever shred of credibility they have left.” My point is, regardless of whether the news media are right or wrong about an Obama win, shouldn’t they still be concerned about that “shred of credibility they have left?” Shouldn’t they be concerned with numerous studies and the observations of various journalists that the business has tilted too far to the left?
Douglas MacKinnon was a press secretary to former Senator Bob Dole.
Text Source: New York Times, November 3, 2008.
Image Source: Whizbang This image ran next to an Oregon weekly's endorsement of Obama.