• Jim Lehrer, Debate Moderator

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    There's a new Rasmussen poll that finds that more Americans think Jim Lehrer, Friday's debate moderator, will "try to help Barack Obama" than think he will try to help John McCain. (The vast majority either think Lehrer will try to play a neutral role or are unsure.) Since poll results that find the public suspects liberal bias on the part of the media tend to get more media attention than results that find the public suspects bias in favor of conservatives*, you can expect to hear a fair amount about the Rasmussen poll over the next few days.

    So it's worth keeping in mind Jim Lehrer's performance in previous presidential debates. A few weeks ago, I described his bungling (and, intentionally or not, strongly pro-Bush) behavior during a key portion of the last debate between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000.

    The short version is that Lehrer helped Bush falsely blur the differences between Bush and Gore on the Patients Bill of Rights by falsely suggesting the two candidates agreed on the issue. Then, when Gore asked Bush a straightforward question about whether Bush actually supported the same piece of legislation he supported, Lehrer told Bush: "Governor Bush, you may answer that if you'd like." So, in his role as moderator, Lehrer gave viewers the false impression that the candidates agreed (exactly the impression Bush wanted viewers to have) then, rather than pressing Bush to clarify his position, he made it optional. Naturally, Bush declined.

    A longer version is available here.

    There's another reason to think Lehrer's handling of the debate may (intentionally or not) end up helping McCain. In 1996, Slate's Jack Shafer described Lehrer's style:

    Yet, even though he knows that most politicians, CEOs, and activists who appear on his show are accomplished liars, he offers little in the way of interruption or contradiction.

    Lehrer himself has said he doesn't think it is his role to say someone is lying, even when he knows that is the case. If the general media consensus that John McCain has run the more dishonest campaign is correct, Lehrer's style is likely to benefit McCain.

    * In May, a CBS/New York Times poll found that only 8 percent of Americans thought the media had been harder on McCain than on other candidates, while 28 percent thought the media had been easier on McCain than on other candidates. You probably didn't hear about that poll result; the media ignored it.

  • Pulitzer-winner warns against "failed lapdog practices" in media coverage of bailout

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Former New York Times reporter -- and Pulitzer-winner -- David Cay Johnston has some important suggestions for reporters covering the proposed Wall Street bailout:

    In covering the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street don't repeat the failed lapdog practices that so damaged our reputations in the rush to war in Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act. Don't assume that Congress must act instantly, as so many news stories state as if it was an immutable fact. Don't assume there is a case just because officials say there is.

    The coverage of the Paulson plan focuses on the edges, on the details. The focus should be on the premise.

    Much more here.

  • The Hill cites Drudge Report

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As a serious news outlet. It's an article about VP Joe Biden. Digby thinks pointing to the Drudge Report as an anything other than a GOP spin machine is quite lame:

    Of course, the Drudge Report is covering the "back and forth" between Obama and Biden. It's creating a drumbeat to benefit the Republican ticket. It's what he does! His raison d'etre. When did the Washington press corps decide he was Walter Cronkite?

  • L.A Times: Obama's "seen as an an aloof egghead"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And this is from a news story.

    It's true, the fuller Times phrase reads, "If Obama is seen as an aloof egghead...." But that still seems like loaded language for a news report. (And Obama's seen that way by whom? The press?)

    More importantly, we haven't seen any Times articles this election cycle that posit, "If McCain is seen as hopelessly out of touch...."

  • 20 seconds

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That's how long the full press pool was allowed to observe Sarah Palin at the U.N. today. AmericaBlog wonders if the press is suffering from the Lucy Syndrome.

  • How should the NYT treat John McCain?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    J-School prof Jay Rosen poses this question:

    If the McCain campaign says, on the record and before the national press, that the New York Times is not a legitimate news organization, or a journalistic enterprise at all, but a political action committee working for Obama (and that is what Steve Schmidt said to reporters; listen to it...) then why does the Times have to treat the McCain crew as a "normal" campaign organization, rather than a bunch of rogue operators willing to say absolutely anything to gain power and lie to the nation once in office?

  • Personality over performance

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Dean Baker points out that USA Today's profile of Henry Paulson touted his "history as a football player" and "presented the assessment of his personal friends" -- but didn't "mention the fact that The Hammer somehow managed to completely overlook an $8 trillion housing bubble and that he minimized the extent of the country's financial problems at every point over the last year and a half."