Top 10 media missteps of 2013 — so far
The New Year has barely begun and we already have enough lapses by the Fourth Estate to make a list of its miscues. In a topic sure to be revisited as the year progresses, here then are recent examples of media malpractice.
1. Destroy Republicans
CBS political director John Dickerson, writing in Slate, went beyond journalistic analysis with a starkly partisan screed, saying that President Obama “can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP. If he wants to transform American politics, he must go for the throat.” If that wasn’t enough, Dickerson goes on say that Obama needs to “pulverize” and “delegitimize” Republicans to “cause a rift in the party that will leave it, at least temporarily, in disarray.”
2. Inaugural coverage
Imagine if a Republican president gave an inaugural address that ignored the plight of the economy while a record percentage of Americans were out of the workforce, even while reciting a litany of conservative policy initiatives. Certainly, it didn’t bother the mainstream media. The New York Times headlined its story with, “A Call for Progressive Values: Evolved, Unapologetic and Urgent,” while the Washington Post went with, “Obama’s Speech Heralds a Bolder Leadership Style.”
3. Anti-gun fervor
Following the Newtown, Conn. tragedy, the mainstream media went on a mission to push an anti-gun agenda. As an example of the zeal, let us look no further than the august Bob Schieffer, who, during CBS’ coverage of Obama’s gun-control news conference, made this startling comparison: “Surely, finding Osama bin Laden; surely, passing civil rights legislation, as Lyndon Johnson was able to do; and before that, surely, defeating the Nazis, was a much more formidable task than taking on the gun lobby.”
4. Gun map
The Journal News, a suburban New York paper, published a map showing thousands of local gun owners, including their names and addresses, in Westchester and Rockland counties. After facing a huge backlash, the paper finally removed the material from its website, but not before being denounced by gun owners, politicians and police groups for creating safety issues for the community. Indeed, several homes in the area were burglarized shortly after the map was published.
5. Michelle’s bangs
The Associated Press said they were “the talk of the town, and the airwaves and social media” and, indeed, the media salivated over Michelle Obama’s new hairdo. President Obama called her bangs “the most significant event” of the inaugural weekend, and the press followed suit with wall-to-wall coverage. Not to be forgotten are earlier moments of Obama presidential coverage when sycophants in the media fawned over the first lady’s bare arms and the crease in her husband’s pants.
6. Atlantic’s Scientology infomercial
The Atlantic published on its website what looked like a positive story about the Church of Scientology, praising its “social and humanitarian initiatives.” Only it wasn’t a story at all, but part of an advertising campaign by the group, called sponsored content. The Atlantic pulled the ad after an outcry questioning the journalistic ethics of the practice, including sharp criticism from members of the magazine’s own editorial staff.
7. Piers’ anti-gun crusade
After the Newtown, Conn. school shootings, CNN host Piers Morgan went on an anti-gun crusade, sharply arguing for new restrictions on firearms while castigating guests on his show who believe otherwise, calling one “an unbelievably stupid man.” In response to Morgan’s on-going efforts to limit the Second Amendment, a petition was filed on the White House “We the people” site seeking deportation of the Brit, which garnered more than 100,000 signatures.
8. Letters to Obama
Like a star-struck teeny-bopper writing to a rock star, CNN correspondent Tom Foreman revealed that he had written a letter to Obama every day of his first term, for a total of 1,463 letters. Alas, Mr. Foreman never heard back from the president despite the journalist’s constant pleadings. His last letter, dated on Inauguration Day, concluded: “I know you are busy today, but call when you can.”
9. Manti Te’o’s ‘girlfriend’
The media fell hook, line and sinker for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s inspirational story of dealing with the death of his grandmother and his non-existent girlfriend. Tender anecdotes, direct quotes, and tear-jerking scenes all appeared in reputable publications chronicling the star’s relationship with the fictional character. Not journalism’s finest hour.
10. Swooning over Obama
Two new books about Obama’s re-election campaign, Spin Masters by David Freddoso and Panic 2012 by Michael Hastings, lifted the veil from the adoring White House press corps. As Hastings said on MSNBC, “That’s the presence of Obama, even on the press corps, even on the people who follow him every day. When they are near him, they lose their mind sometimes. They start behaving in ways, you know, that are juvenile and amateurish and they swoon.”