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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cutting along the bias

Charges that the press has practically handed the Democratic nod to Obama on a platter by being unfair to Hillary have only grown this weekend, with the candidate herself re-enforcing the notion with a surprise visit to SNL -- which had done as much to publicize the idea as anyone. But the Clintonistas are not laughing. Still, there was something absurd in the AP carrying a lengthy account of bias brought by Walter Shorenstein -- one of her leading backers in California. Talk about bias!

Anyway: I'm not convinced there is a great deal to the charge, at least if you look at the arc of the entire campaign over a few months. Someone can be "favored" in a certain month, which may reverse the previous month -- which had corrected unbalanced coverage the month before, and so on. Until recent weeks, Clinton was widely declared the winner of one debate after another with Obama turning in weaker showings. Was this "bias" or recognizing reality? Now it's said that he has improved greatly in the debates -- can anyone really argue with this? If anything, the press has been pretty gentle in describing the extent of the thrashing Clinton received in most of the 11 straight defeats.

Again, I'm not saying there is nothing to this (at least in considering a particular week or certain debate) but it would be odd if the media really have consciously bent over backward for Obama. They normally only do that for candidates who suck up to them -- does the name John McCain ring a bell? Obama does not hang out with the press boys and girls which earns him no points in their book -- though I suppose it also cuts down on gaffes (which means he gets less "gotcha" coverage). Many in the media have dreamed about a "brokered convention" for decades -- one leading pundit admitted as much on Olbermann's show recently -- and so if anything they should have been trashing Obama the past month.

In any case, the critical media moment will come after Tuesday -- if Hillary does well in Texas and Ohio. I suspect if that happens the media will happily portray her as The Comeback Kid 2008, if only to have something to cover through August....

UPDATE: The weekly Project for Excellencein Journalism survey on Tuesday reveals that coverage of Obama clearly turned more critical in recent days....

NOTE: My new book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq will be published this week and is available now at online booksellers (see links to order at left on this page).


Anonymous said...


espiritu guardian said...

This is satire, right?

When Dana Milbank publicly says that the press will "always savage Hillary," and Andrea Mitchell publicly says that Hillary deserves the hostility because she's so unlikable; and when Russert, or Williams, or Shuster, or Borger, or Blitzer, or Greenfield et al. treat her as their favorite punching bag, you say, blithely..."I'm not convinced there is a great deal to the charge."

What would it take to convince you?

Sorry, I withdraw the question. After all, the item above this is about Krugman's "bashing" of Obama. In your cotton-candy universe, when a reporter or columnist or a TV chatterer raises a skeptical point about Obama, it's "bashing."

But when a reporter or columnist or a TV chatterer is so unashamed of his dislike for Clinton, he publicly proclaims it, you're "not convinced."

Very funny.

mary said...

Wow, that's quite a large blind spot you've got there. Maybe you never watch TV or read the Times or the Post? Or maybe you've internalized the Clinton Rules? I don't know -- I'm not a mindreader. But I seem to remember that after HRC "came back" after Iowa, the MSM spent about 10 seconds feeling sheepish and then launched into the "race baiting" story line. It's not love for Obama that drives this -- it's hatred of Clinton. An astonishing number of pundits and others can't stand the thought of her succeeding. I personally don't care whether she succeeds -- though the past few months of so-called coverage (by the MSM and also, disappointingly, by some of my favorite blogs) have made me mad enough to consider voting for her (I didn't, in the end).