Every once in a while something happens in medialand that stirs up reporters. The most recent example occurred last Thursday when the editors of Politico accused the Washington Post and the New York Times of bias in their coverage of the presidential campaign.
Under a headline that read, “To GOP, blatant bias in vetting,” the authors added their own commentary in ways that suggested that Republican critics of media coverage of the presidential campaign are right.
“Republicans cry ‘bias’ so often,” they wrote, “it feels like a campaign theme. It is, largely because it fires up conservatives…. But it is also because it often rings true, even to people who don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh – or Haley Barbour.”
And with that, the dawn came up like thunder among those whose calling it is to resist journalistic apostasy whenever it rears its head. Take, for instance, one Devon Gordon, who writes for GQ (“Look Sharp/Live Smart”). Gordon wrote a piece whose thrust was nicely summed up in its title: “Five Points About Politico’s Hatchet Job on NYT and WaPo.”
Or how about John Cook who, writing in Gawker, began this way: “Megalomaniacal supervillain Jim Vandehei and emotionally hobbled robo-reporter Mike Allen, both of Politico, have penned a rugged endorsement of Mitt Romney’s chief grievance today, agreeing with his advisers that the press corps is busy ‘scaring up stories to undermine the introduction of Mitt Romney to the general election audience.’”
And lest we forget our friends from papers across the pond, there’s the Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman. Digging deep into his reservoir of profundities, Burkeman relieved himself of this penetrating observation: “This is always the problem with the charge of ‘media bias’: for it to be valid, it would have to be the case that ‘not being biased’ were a viable alternative option, and it isn’t.”
And then there’s the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. In (at last count) six separate pieces on his blog, Wemple makes points like the following: (1) Politico is jealous that they didn’t develop the Post’s story about Romney’s alleged bullying in high school; (2) Politico itself gave lots of attention to the Post’s bullying story; and (3) Politico’s claim that the Post’s story was overdone fails to acknowledge that “Bullying (a) schoolmate by pinning him down and cutting his hair is not only illegal but hateful, violent and destructive."
And there it is. Never mind the well documented history of Republican unhappiness with the media, or the larger issue of media bias as perceived by about half the people in the country, and what that portends for the future of the commercial media.
No matter that polling organizations like Harris Interactive and Pew established without any doubt in 2008 that Republicans overwhelmingly thought the media favored Obama over McCain (indeed, the Pew poll found that Democrats and Independents felt that way too), or that a Gallup poll published just last September found that 47% of the people think the media are too liberal (a number that rises to 75% when polling Republicans only), while just 13% think they are too conservative.
It is, apparently, one thing for such data to be reported in the charts and graphs of pollsters, or in the words of known or suspected Republicans, but another thing entirely for a member of the MSM to break ranks and criticize the media along the same lines.
The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.