CNN's Jessica Yellin yesterday did a decent job trying to put the Kevin Jennings "controversy" in context. (See clip below.) But watching the report I couldn't help thinking how strange this new Obama-era news model has become. It used to be that in the past, when leaders from the party out of power had a (partisan) beef with the White House and were willing to spend some political capital to make a stink, the Beltway press paid attention.
Today, with the GOP increasingly irrelevant within the Beltway and the right-wing media, and specifically Fox News, taking over as the Opposition Party, other journalists are now taking their cues in terms of partisan news from radio talk show hosts and cable TV hosts. It's unprecedented.
At what point did CNN during the Bush years, for instance, carve out time to report on what Air America hosts or liberal bloggers were complaining about regarding personnel issues inside the White House? If Democrats big whigs wanted to cause a fuss, they might garner some coverage. But liberal commentators? For most of the Bush years the Beltway press couldn't care less what they had to say, and certainly never saw their comments or attacks as news.
Yet watching CNN's report on the Jennings 'controversy,' it was painfully clear that the GOP Noise Machine has rigged the system. They raise concerns (i.e. they lie and fear monger) about a single passage in a book written 21 years ago by a mid-level White House official and that's news? On what planet does that kind of newsroom math add up?
Weak witch hunts like the one unleashed this week against Jennings only work if the mainstream press acknowledges them. And I'm sorry, but serious journalists need to use a higher, better standard to determine a story's newsworthiness beyond the hollow "conservative are angry about.....," construct that's currently in use. Even if the press sets out to debunk the claims.
As I suggested in the headline, if CNN is going to routinely report out these conservative attacks on members of the administration (which will never, ever end), than CNN ought to at least be upfront about it and start up a running segment called, "Witch Hunt Watch."