A Free and Fair Press

By now, conservative complaints about media bias is well-trod ground and indulging in them tempts the tune-out factor, but when Mark Halperin of Time magazine, former CBS newsman Dan Rather and sci-fi writer and registered Democrat Orson Scott Card are publicly acknowledging the media slant in this year’s presidential campaign, well, it’s worth a mention.
First, though, it’s important to note there is some nuance involved. It’s not that the MSM doesn’t report negative stories about liberals. Instead, they have a different standard that must be reached before running a negative report on a liberal/Democrat and they display a certain vigor when the topic redounds negatively towards a conservative or Republican.
Halperin was asked by CNN’s Howard Kurtz, “If a Republican had not taken public financing and had raised all that money, and the Democrat was struggling financially, wouldn’t we see a lot of stories about one candidate essentially trying to buy the election?”

We would. We’d also see a lot of stories about his going back on his word saying that he would accept the public money and would reach out to Senator McCain to try to work out a deal. So I think this is a case of a clear, unambiguous double standard, and any reporter who doesn’t ask themselves, ‘Why is that, why would it be different if it’s a Republican?’ I think is doing themselves and our profession and our democracy a disservice.

Rather was asked about the media coverage of Sen. Biden’s remark concerning an attack in 6 months should Obama be elected President and replied, “…if Sarah Palin had said this, the newspapers would have jumped all over it and so would have the major television outlets.” Meanwhile, some media outlets left the most damaging parts of Biden’s statement out of their coverage. On the same topic, another journalists even confirmed that there is bias:

CNN: I guess we have to wrap it up.
Palin: Yes.
CNN: I mean I could go on with you forever.
Palin: So could I, on that one especially.
CNN: [LAUGHS] I mean, did Joe Biden get a pass?
Palin: Drew, you need to ask your colleagues and I guess your bosses or whoever is in charge of all this: Why does Joe Biden get a pass on such a thing? Can you imagine if I would’ve said such a thing? No, I think that, you know, we would be hounded and held accountable: What in the world did you mean by that, VP presidential candidate? Why would you say that, “mark my words, this nation will undergo international crisis if you elect Barack Obama?” If I would’ve said that, you guys would clobber me.
CNN: You’re right. [LAUGHTER] You’re right.

Card took the entire media to task for playing down the Democrats role in the Fannie/Freddie portion of the recent financial crisis:

Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That’s what you claim you do, when you accept people’s money to buy or subscribe to your paper.
But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie — that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. You have trained the American people to blame everything bad — even bad weather — on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.
If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth — even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.
Because that’s what honorable people do. Honest people tell the truth even when they don’t like the probable consequences. That’s what honesty means . That’s how trust is earned.

And that trust isn’t helped when the media so obviously swallows every rumor about Sarah Palin or carefully scrutinizes Cindy McCain all while ignoring similar items on the Democratic side of things. Or investigating the background of a plumber who asked a question of Obama with more vigor than they have with the candidate himself. Maybe the ratings drops the big 3 networks are experiencing are a reflection of this loss of trust.

The Obama-McCain match-up is proving to be a lackluster election ticket for the Big 3 network news programs, according to NIELSEN MEDIA RESEARCH.
As the shouting from the trail and the frantic spinning from the anchor desks intensify, the audience is voting with their remotes.
All 3 evening news shows experienced audience drops year-to-year for the week of Oct. 13-19, 2008.
CBSNEWS w/ Couric shed a half a million viewers, falling from 6.4 million to 5.9 million; ABCNEWS dropped from 8.1 million to 7.6 million; NBCNEWS slumped from 8.2 million to 7.8 million.

Yet, while bias may be one cause, it’s also likely that people simply continue to move away from the 6:30 news hour and are going to cable and the internet for their information because it’s just more convenient. In particular, news outlets providing partisan-slanted information are popular while being upfront about their biases. Politically engaged people know where O’Reilly and Olberman are coming from and less tuned-in people can quickly figure it out. But the same can’t be said for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Be that as it may, it is a free press and the internet and talk-radio have given partisans of all stripes the opportunity to get their viewpoint out there.
All of this explains why conservatives are so skittish–moreso than liberals–when the spectre of a reimplementation of the Fairness Doctrine is raised. Even if Sen. Obama has stated he would not seek to reimpose it if elected President and if there is supposedly bipartisan opposition. Hopefully they’ll continue to avoid the temptation. If the radio airwaves become regulated, will the internet soon follow?

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15 years ago

It’s somewhat sad to see the state of newspapers today, but the number of new information sources and the speed of devices will not slow. There may be all sorts of problems with this new information techonogy we have not yet experienced but we are going back.
Maybe the local newspapers can hang onto local reporting and more analysis of national news. The latter would fall into the criticism you make now about bias in coverage. I think we will see more and more biased reporting and most all partisans of all stripes will be complaining about fairness. I could care less about the outdated network news and their anchors who are stumbling blindly towards oblivion.

15 years ago

“If the radio airwaves become regulated, will the internet soon follow?”
From my cold, dead hands.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
15 years ago

Phil-you’re right-I made a somewhat similar observation on RIF concerning information technology,etc.I didn’t bring up network news,because I ignore it.It was in response to Jerzyk discussing the decline of newspapers.

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