A CBSNews.com article asserted that "[Gov. Sarah] Palin's readiness to be president ... has been widely questioned by Democrats and many in the media." The article failed to note, however, that many of those "questioning" Palin's readiness are conservatives. In fact, CBS Early Show correspondent Jeff Glor noted, "even some conservatives are concerned, including syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, who said Palin is 'clearly out of our league' and called for the Alaska governor to leave the race."
MSNBC's Chris Matthews and The New York Times' Katharine Q. Seelye asked whether Sen. Joe Biden will "help" Gov. Sarah Palin "with her chair" at the beginning of the vice-presidential debate. The question is one that presumably would not be asked if the two candidates were the same gender, and the premise of the question itself is false, as the debate format rules state that Biden and Palin will be "standing at podiums" -- a fact Seelye later acknowledged.
Much of the news media is reporting that Barack Obama is pulling away from John McCain ... and suggesting that, because of low expectations, Sarah Palin need only get through tonight's debate without accidentally endorsing Obama in order to be successful. Put the two together, and it's hard to avoid the suspicion that the media is more than ready to push a McCain-Palin "comeback" narrative -- and, consciously or not, to help that comeback along.
Don't believe that kind of thing happens? Here's Brian Williams and Howard Fineman, in a September 21, 2000 exchange:
HOWARD FINEMAN: The media pendulum swings, as you were pointing out before, Brian. Bill Clinton can resurface in this campaign in a way that might not necessarily help Al Gore. And Al Gore himself has a tendency to begin - when he's ahead especially I think - talking down to the country like he's the kindergarten teacher talking to the class. I think all those factors are at play right now as Bush has really had probably the best week he's had since his convention speech. And Gore has had his worst.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Howard, I don't know of any kind of conspiratorial trilateral commission-like council meetings in the news media. But you bring up an interesting point. And boy, it does seem true over the years that the news media almost reserve the right to build up and tear down and change their minds and like an underdog. What's that about?
HOWARD FINEMAN: Well, what it's about is the relentless search for news and the relentless search for friction in the story. I don't think the media was going to allow just by its nature the next seven weeks and the last seven or eight weeks of the campaign to be all about Al Gore's relentless triumphant march to the presidency.
We want a race I suppose. If we have a bias of any kind, it's that we like to see a contest, and we like to see it down the end if we can. And I think that's partly the psychology at play here.
Because they make the media do (even more) foolish things. Paging Politico.
Headline: "Psychics: Stars not aligned for Palin"
[Elizabeth] Joyce, whose website claims she was "born with the authentic gift of psychic ability," was one of a handful of prominent psychics Politico surveyed to get a better "sense" of how the Palin-Biden matchup might shake out. According to their occult minds, Biden has the edge and, ominously, the moon and stars are not aligned in Palin's favor.
Joe Biden "has benefited from resources and relationships not available to average Americans."
And yes, that's an A1 story today.
Instead of adopting the ready GOP strategy of bashing it. NPR examines the gamble the McCain camp took.
On MSNBC's Hardball, Chuck Todd said that Sen. Barack Obama "was judged as not winning" the first presidential debate, asserting that "it was somewhat of a draw." But national post-debate polls contradict Todd's assertion, with Obama receiving higher marks from respondents than Sen. John McCain.
In a blog post, washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza reported that the National Republican Congressional Committee released an ad attacking a Democratic House member who voted in favor of an earmark for "the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service," but Cillizza did not note that 89 House Republicans also voted in favor of the earmark.
During the 2000 campaign, New York Times reporter Katharine Seelye promoted the image of Al Gore as a liar and exaggerator -- and she did so by making up things that he never said, then explaining that they weren't true.
This morning, Seeyle posted a preview of tonight's VP debate on the Times blog The Caucus. In it, she outlined what she'll be "watching for," both generally and for each candidate. Given her previous obsession with falsehoods and exaggerations, and given Sarah Palin's well-documented penchant for both, you might assume Seeyle would mention the danger for Palin in saying something that isn't true, or in exaggerating her record.
Wrong. Seeyle didn't devote so much as a single word to the possibility that Palin might say something incorrect or unduly self-aggrandizing. Apparently, that isn't as important to Seelye as the crucial question of whether Biden will "help Ms. Palin with her chair."
Never content to let political events unfold on their own, the press seems obsessed with reminding us, ad nauseam, just how important the Next Big Thing is.
After last week proclaiming 100 million people were going to watch the first presidential debate (a Chuck Todd prediction that was only off by 46 million), the press goes right back to the hype game for Thursday's VP forum:
"Probably the most-anticipated vice presidential faceoff ever." (AP)
"Probably the most anticipated vice presidential debate ever." (Chicago Tribune)
"The most anticipated vice presidential debate in history." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"The most anticipated vice presidential debate in history." (Newsweek)
"What may be the most anticipated vice presidential debate in history." (Politico)
How should tonight's showdown be described? Seems washingtonpost.com got it right when it dropped the breathless hype in favor of actual journalism: "Tonight's heavily anticipated debate."
See, that's not so difficult.
In a blog post, Jay Carney claimed that Sen. John McCain's "campaign has released a 60-second ad that uses Bill Clinton's words to pin the blame for the mortgage crisis on Democrats" without noting that in the interview clipped in the ad, Clinton actually said that "the biggest mistake" was the SEC's repealing of a regulation on short selling, when President Bush was in office.
And if not, why is he treated him like one this week?
That's the excellent question posed at CJR. It comes in the wake of Sarah Palin's appearance on the conservative talk show host's syndicated program where she dutifully fielded a series of GOP softball questions.
Lots of journalists cited the Palin interview and even posted extensive transcripts online. But as CJR noted:
There is zero journalistic value in Hewitt's interview. There isn't even the illusion of critical distance, of healthy skepticism, of intellectually honest inquiry, of some sense that it is crucial to deeply sound out this person who wants to lead our nation at such a perilous time on what she would bring to the table.
Yet very few reporters pointed that out. Instead, they seemed to treat the Palin Q&A as a newsworthy event. Here's why that's trouble:
If you're going to call attention to Hewitt's work, why not go the extra step and label it what is? Otherwise, you risk giving Hewitt's hackery the imprimatur of real journalism.
On his radio show, Hugh Hewitt did not challenge Gov. Sarah Palin's claim that the "extreme position" on abortion Sen. Barack Obama took in the Illinois state Senate included "not even supporting a measure that would during a -- after a botched abortion and that baby's born alive -- allowing medical care to cease and allowing that baby to die." But Obama and other opponents said that the legislation to which Palin referred posed a threat to abortion rights and was unnecessary because Illinois law already prohibited the conduct being addressed by the bill.