If freedom of the press is only for those who own the presses, then what freedom is there in the mainstream media for stories that damage liberals?
Important stories have legs in the mainstream media, but others — those which take a small political matter and inflate it to affect a politician’s fate — can have manufactured “legs” if an advantage can be had.
Remember the offhand “macaca” comment made by former Virginia Sen. George Allen?
Blame the “former” tag partly on the wall-to-wall coverage of Allen’s verbal slip in outlets like The Washington Post, which seemed to run a “macaca” story in every edition during the run up to that senatorial election.
And did most Americans even know who South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was before his imbecilic behavior brought him national attention?
So what unites these stories with so many others? They typically hurt the GOP and fit the media template regarding Republicans. These events are news worthy, no doubt. But stories which could damage Democrats are often either ignored by mainstream media outlets or given a cursory glance before giving way to fluffy stories about President Obama’s pectoral muscles.
Consider the following items that got little to no coverage in the mainstream press — in a just media word, each would spark countless news articles:
• Democrat Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, said last week those protesting President Barack Obama’s health care reform carried swastikas to town hall meetings. Here’s a mental homework assignment — imagine the reaction if, say, former speaker Newt Gingrich had launched a similar attack against citizen critics of the Contract with America? And Pelosi wasn’t done after her swastika comment. On Aug. 10, she had calmed down enough to simply call health care protestors "un-American" along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in the pages of USA Today.
• Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said something headline worthy in a chat with the New York Times Magazine on July 7:
“Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe [v. Wade] was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of,” she said.
How many red flags does that comment set off? Even if Judge Ginsberg meant something different, surely a savvy journalist would want to follow up on it, right?
• Congressman John Conyers said this last month regarding the contentious health care bill floating through his office:
“I love these members that get up and say, Read the bill! Well, what good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you’ve read the bill?”
Conyers’ arrogance here is off the charts, and his stance should have triggered a media maelstrom. Wouldn‘t the public like to know that 1/6th of the U.S. economy would be decided by legislators who couldn’t be bothered to read the bill?
• Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) took heat last month from Harry Alford, head of the Black Chamber of Commerce, who accused the senator of playing the race card in defending Sen. Obama’s policies.
Was Alford right? Would that even matter if Alford had stared down a Republican senator?
• The Washington Post reports Rep. Baron P. Hill (D.-In.) decided against future town hall meetings for fear of more "political terrorists" shutting down the debate. Hill didn’t seem to mind when groups like Code Pink infiltrated public meetings over the past eight years and made public debate darn near impossible.
• Just a few months ago, the Republican Party was considered dead, killed by a double dose of Hope and Change. Today, some polls are saying a generic Republican candidate is out-polling a generic Democrat. Will this news light a fuse under assignment editors’ desks?
Don’t count on it.
This isn’t a new phenomena. Some amazing stories in the recent past were also ignored by the press, tales that would likely gain readers and Web eyeballs at a time when the media’s collapse was just gaining steam.
Take radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s 2007 battle against Sen. Harry Reid. The Democratic senator accused Limbaugh of calling an anti-war soldier a “phony soldier,” a charge which made no sense given: Limbaugh’s professionalism; the talker’s admiration for all the men and women who serve; and the fact that the soldier in question was, in fact, phony.
So how did Limbaugh fight back? He auctioned off the critical letter sent by Sen. Reid to his bosses for $2.1 million and then wrote a check matching that amount and sent the grand total to a group helping the families of fallen Marines and police officers.
When was the last time a radio show host ponied up north of $2 million for any charity? Or any celebrity, for that matter?
And if journalists are looking for another Rush-related story, try this one — here’s a man who battled — and seemingly conquered — a nasty drug addiction, lost his hearing and yet continues as the most electric radio talk show host in the country. Think that bundle of facts is worth a fuzzy feature story?
If Limbaugh spoke liberal talking points, it would be.
Mainstream outlets have no excuses for missing these stories. Many were headlined dramatically on The Drudge Report, others were vigorously explored on some of the biggest conservative blog sites around.
Reporters toiling in today’s news room must peruse not just the far left Media Matters web site — which likely helped spark the phony “phony soldiers” story — but Newsbusters and other right-leaning venues.
And then, more importantly, they should start following a few of the journalistic lessons learned before their ideology hardened to the point that they only saw issues from one vantage point.