Friday, September 14, 2012

Just How Bad Is The Media?

The story "about the story" about Mitt Romney's Cairo/Libya remarks is how the press has covered it.
Conservatives are pretty horrified over how Mitt Romney--rather than the embassy attacks themselves--has been made the story:
  • NBC’s Chuck Todd kicked things off at the top of MSNBC’s Daily Rundown stating that Romney’s, “statement looks crass and tone deaf in the light of this day.”
  • CNN’s and Newsweek’s Howard Kurtz carried the ball claiming Romney had “given the appearance of exploiting an international tragedy” in an article for The Daily Beast
  • Kurtz’s Newsweek compatriot Christopher Dickey lamented, “Obama’s impossible task of dealing with the mob, those who incited them, and those who exploited that incitement for their own end.”
  • Caught on a hot mic, CBS reporter Jan Crawford and NPR’s Ari Shapiro were heard coordinating with the press corps to pin Romney with the demand that he declare he regretted his statement.
  • At that same press conference, Romney was asked by journalists seven different timesabout the statement. Not one reporter asked a substantive policy-based question.
  • In a snarky piece for the LA Times, media reporter James Rainey suggested “a joint rally featuring [Koran-burning] Christian Pastor Terry Jones and his proxy, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney.”
Legal Insurrection (who holds that the press has already declared war on America) is outraged:
The U.S. media should be all over the failure to protect our diplomats in the Middle East on September 11 of all days. Yet all we received was collusion at Romney’s press conference and snide high-fiving at how successful they were at keeping the focus off of Obama’s failures.
Our position in the Middle East never has been as bad as it is today, at least not in my lifetime. The threat to Israel never has been greater.
And our media never has been as complicit as it is now.
What Do I Think?
I read and enjoyed Tim Groseclose's Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts The American Mind. It's an interesting take and a good read. This, sole, one-star review has some problems with it--which I think are maybe meaningful--but on the whole I think that (a) the media is populated by fairly liberal people and (b) if doctors and scientists need double-blind tests to get rid of bias in scientific experiments, it is impossible to expect that journalists get rid of their bias in reporting.

However, that said, there are a few things we should keep in mind:
  1. Romney wanted press coverage--specifically negative press coverage (of Obama) and so he issued a press release. That he got more press coverage than he wanted and that it wasn't the right kind is not doesn't make the initial trigger an irrelevant detail.
  2. The fact of the matter is that the election of the next president of the United States of America is still a bigger story than the embassy attacks. A much bigger one, frankly, and Romney's ill-considered press release (both for some timing reasons and, as I got, uhm, schooled on yesterday, for including the mention of the death in an attack-ad) reflects strongly on that
In other words, to an extent, Romney "made the news," made it about him (by issuing the press release), and ... it was "real news."

That Said ... 
I don't think that the conservative blogosphere and media doesn't have a point: I think it's pretty clear that the press sees blood in the water and they're circling. Romney's betting-markets dive over the past few days is a lot worse than his convention bounce:
Uh ... Bear Market.
So right now I think Romney has to ride this out. The odds of this being with us until November are slim but not nonexistent. Romney needs to change the narrative. The press is not going to be complicit in doing this--he needs to change it on his own.

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