In my column on Friday, I touched on some of the Right's most absurd claims of media bias over the years.
Among the highlights: Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center complaining in February of 1998 that the media wasn't paying enough attention to the Monica Lewinsky story -- at a time when there were 500 news reports a day on the topic.
Now, in an apparent attempt to live down to the standard set by their fearless leader, the gang over at MRC's blog, Newsbusters, are blasting the San Francisco Chronicle for keeping an interview with Barack Obama "hidden from the public." According to Newsbusters, the video became public only through the heroic efforts of a right-wing blogger: "Hot Air's Ed Morrissey has found a video of that interview with the San Francisco Chronicle."
How, you might wonder, did the Chronicle keep the video "hidden from the public"? Did they lock the tape away in a vault deep beneth the Coit Tower, surrounded by armed guards, attack dogs, and a moat?
Ah ... no.
No, the Chronicle kept the video "hidden from the public" by posting it on their public web site. Nearly eight months ago. Where it has been viewable since.
Still: Newsbusters is convinced they've caught the Chronicle covering up the interview. Noel Sheppard predicts: "I'm sure we're going to hear more about this in the next few days. Stay tuned."
I can't wait.
It really is one of the great ironies surrounding conservative media criticism over the years; most of the people doing it don't understand how journalism works, in part because they've never worked as journalists, and therefore they have no respect for the profession.
Right-wing critiques of the press are usually filed by ideologues who, rather than trying to improve journalism, are trying to eradicate it, which pretty much sums up the work being done at NewsBusters.
I was reminded of that while reading this utterly predictable complaint about how the liberal media is (surprise!) going to cost John McCain the campaign. Specifically, the NewsBusters item details how when polled informally, journalists as a group often vote Democratic. And, of course (goes the Newsbusters thinking), because they vote Democratic that means journalists report Democratic, whatever that means.
Let's review some of the problems with this evergreen argument. First, lots of the newsroom surveys over the years have asked, in general, how journalists of all stripes voted on Election Day. But in terms of building a grand conspiracy theory about liberal bias regarding political coverage, do we really care how sports editors, obit writers and Metro columnists vote? Or does their liberal bias seep through into the box scores, obituaries, and their dispatches from zoning commission meetings? Meaning, probably 70 percent of what's printed in newspapers each day has nothing to do with partisan politics, so who cares how the people who produce that 70 percent vote?
Second, the simplistic conclusion that because a journalist might vote for a Democrat means that that journalist automatically, and without exception, skews his or her work in order to benefit Democrats, completely ignores the basic premise of journalism, which is called professionalism.
And third, if newsrooms tilt so tragically to the left, why don't conservatives try to get jobs in newsrooms? Why don't they jump at the chance to become poorly paid reporters in a dying industry? The answer (they'd rather be partisan pundits) brings us right back to my first point. Conservative press critics don't understand how journalism works, or respect the craft, because most of them have never been journalists.
Atrios notes who is currently on MSNBC:
The very liberal MSNBC is currently giving me Mike Barnicle, Peggy Noonan, and Mike Murphy.
He left someone out, though: host Joe Scarborough. Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough.
Scarborough doesn't get mentioned much when people go on about how liberal MSNBC is. Kind of screws up the thesis.
It's as if opiniators in print, on TV, and online were scientists hoping for a big natural explosion, and when it didn't happen, or not enough of it happened to feed the media kitty, they interfered with the experiment they were observing by enriching the uranium themselves.
Again with the town hall debate moaning?
We mentioned last week that Broder has been incessant with his complaint about the series of town hall forums John McCain wanted to have never took place and how they never took place. For Broder, the forums could've changed everything and they represent one of the most important issues of the entire campaign. For real.
Well, Broder's back today to take another whack:
That was one of many disappointments in the general election. A potentially captivating experience was lost when Obama declined McCain's invitation to join him in weekly town halls, to stand together and answer voters' questions.
Personally, we saw the one town how forum the two candidates agreed to, and we're not sure we would've wanted to watch nine more.
Steve Benen has more on what he calls the "town hall myth."
O'Reilly's afraid if Obama wins the press won't act as a government watchdog:
The collusion of a far left Congress to a far left media to a far left media being sympathetic to them makes me a little uneasy because there's no check and balance there, it all goes out the window. The media is supposed to be the check and balance on the Congress and there isn't any check anymore. They are actively rooting and promoting and that's what we have
Because, y'know, the press did such a stellar job keeping Republicans honest for th last eight years, right?
Crooks and Liars has much more.
Extremely timid offering on the Post's A1 today about how Bush is feeling during the closing days of his presidency, as he bounces along the lowest regions of job disapproval any U.S. president has ever registered. (He's surprisingly sanguine!)
The story basically offers Bush apologists a forum to claim the president's been unfairly attacked and that "his closest advisers are confident that history "will remember him well."" Whatever.
But this misleading passage especially caught our eye:
Others inside and outside the administration, however, say the upbeat talk masks disappointment and frustration among many White House staffers, who believe Bush's reputation has been unfairly maligned for a series of calamities -- from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to the financial crisis -- that were beyond his control and which he handled well.
If we had to assemble a list of "calamities" for which Bush has been blamed, we don't think the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 would even make the top ten. Yes, there's been healthy debate over the years about whether the Bush White House paid enough attention to anti-terrorism initiatives and how the FBI ignored lots of tell-tale signs that trouble was brewing.
But in general, I don't think Bush's reputation has been "maligned" by 9/11. It's been maligned by everything that happened after 9/11. The way he was unable to secure Afghanistan, decided to lead the U.S. into war with Iraq, tried to privatize Social Security, completely botched Hurricane Katrina relief, and on and on and on.
It's puzzling that the Post would point to 9/11 as an example.
Or something like that.
It's getting very confusing in terms of tracking the studies that purport to show 'positive' and 'negative' coverage of the campaign. The latest to lay out its findings is Center for Media and Public Affairs, which claims that after watching the evening news broadcasts have favored Obama over McCain.
According to the AP:
Comments made by sources, voters, reporters and anchors that aired on ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts over the past two months reflected positively on Obama in 65 percent of cases.
The Center's Robert Lichter sounds surprised by the findings [emphasis added]:
For whatever reason, the media are portraying Barack Obama as a better choice for president than John McCain. If you watch the evening news, you'd think you should vote for Obama.
Two slightly monumental problems with that way of thinking. First, Republican John McCain went from being tied in the polls in September to trailing by double-digits in October, so of course the coverage of his campaign is going to be more 'negative' because it's headed south. That seems self-evident.
The second problem is the methodology that Lichter's Center used. As the AP explained:
When NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported Oct. 1 that some conservatives say that Sarah Palin is not ready for prime-time, that's marked in the negative column for McCain.
Re-read that and let it sink in. When conservatives criticized the GOP ticket on the evening news, that was chalked up as negative coverage in the Center's study. Yet now conservatives are going to use that study to claim the networks have a liberal bias.
Neat trick, eh?
There's no question that if McCain loses on Tuesday, conservatives are going to embrace their favorite meme about how the liberal media bent over backwards during the campaign to sink the GOP ticket; how the press ganged up on Republicans.
The hitch this time around, as Brian Normoyle details at HuffPost, is that it's been conservative writers at the front of the line critiquing McCain/Palin in recent weeks. So how is that the fault of "the liberal media"?