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Friday, January 11, 2008

Conservative Bias about Media Bias

by folkbum

The right-o-sphere is a-flutter over this:
NBC's Brian Williams took to MSNBC today at noon and had this to say:
WILLIAMS: I interviewed Lee Cowan, our reporter who covers Obama, while we were out yesterday and posted the interview on the web. Lee says it's hard to stay objective covering this guy. Courageous for Lee to say, to be honest. The e-mail flood started out we caught you guys, we never did trust you. That kind of thing. I think it is a very interesting dynamic. I saw middle-aged women just throw their arms around Barack Obama, kiss him hard on the cheek and say, you know, I'm with you, good luck. And I think he feels it, too.
For example, there's The Game ("Created to give example after example of media bias, left wing lies, and the PC world"), who said, "Give him credit for admitting what he thinks. Now if we could get the other 90% of the media that thinks like him to be honest maybe we can get somewhere."

Rick Esenberg opines (his emphasis), "Perhaps it is courageous to admit your man crush, but it would be professional for a journalist not to compound it by announcing that this candidate is so wonderful that we can barely hang on to our virtue."

I'll begin by pointing out that Brian Williams clarified his point:
Lee admits "'s almost hard to remain objective..." which as he implies is our goal in our work every day. He's referring to what all of us who have covered campaigns have felt from time to time: it's impossible to get the long view...the view from 40,000 feet...while operating at sea level, and inside the bubble. Lee was talking about the swirl of excitement that has hit the Obama campaign after Iowa -- the crowds, the hoopla -- all of it.
Which is not quite the same as the fawning over Barack Obama that our Right Cheddarsphere friends presumed.

But that's not my point. What I find most bothersome about the whole affair is that as quick as the right has been to denounce this supposed pro-Obama bias (Game and Esenberg are not the only two by any means), they seem perfectly willing to let more blatant examples of bias slip by. Take this one, for example:
Hillary stepped onto the parked press bus in Indianola for about 90 seconds to deliver bagels and coffee, and I'm not sure what this says about Clinton and the press--the chill, I think, comes from both sides--but it was a strange moment. She expressed her sympathies that we're away from our families and "significant others," tried a joke at the expense of her press secretary, and paused. Nobody even shouted a question, whether because of the surprise, the assumption that she wouldn't actually answer, or the sheer desire to end the encounter.

One reporter compared the awkwardness to running unexpectedly into an ex-girlfriend.

"Maybe we should go outside and warm up," said another, as Clinton exited into the freezing air.
For our friends on the right it's horrible when a reporter covering the candidate gets caught up in the excitement of that campaign--even as that reporter makes it clear he's trying to keep an objective sensibility. Moreover, the right assumes that Cowen is representative of the whole media enchilada, that the press covering the campaigns is inherently pro-Democrat and anti-Republican. But the right's just willing to let it slide when the press covering Hillary Clinton hates her. And there's more:
As is so often the case, Maureen Dowd today unintentionally provides a perfect view of the core sickness of our press corps:
When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.

A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the "humanized" Hillary. One reporter who covers security issues cringed. "We are at war," he said. "Is this how she'll talk to Kim Jong-il?"

Another reporter joked: "That crying really seemed genuine. I'll bet she spent hours thinking about it beforehand." He added dryly: "Crying doesn't usually work in campaigns. Only in relationships."

Bill Clinton was known for biting his lip, but here was Hillary doing the Muskie. Certainly it was impressive that she could choke up and stay on message.
Dowd is describing here the conversation that took place in her "office"--which happens to be the newsroom of The New York Times--between what are undoubtedly very Serious Journalists, including one who covers (said with whispered reverence) "security issues."
This isn't even some second-hand reporting of a conversation on the bus. This is a premier columnist for the New York Times laying bare the hatred that press of all stripes--even the "liberal" NYT!--have for Clinton.

This rightie hand-wringing over Cowen is unimpressive, to say the least, when they are perfectly happy to let the press hate Clinton with abandon.

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