Feature

Media: Did liberal bias doom McCain?

The mainstream media&rsquo;s concerted campaign to elect Barack Obama may have succeeded, but at the cost of what was left of its credibility, said Victor Davis Hanson in <em>National Review Online.</em>

We’ve just witnessed “the end of journalism,” said Victor Davis Hanson in National Review Online. The mainstream media’s concerted campaign to elect Barack Obama may have succeeded, but at the cost of what was left of its credibility. Newspapers spared no expense investigating Cindy McCain’s prescription drug addiction, Sarah Palin’s pregnancies, and Joe the Plumber’s tax records, while ignoring the central question of this campaign: Who is Barack Obama? Blinded by their “infatuation” with this slippery orator, journalists chose not to dig into Obama’s relationship with terrorist Bill Ayers or with the ranting Rev. Jeremiah Wright, or even to point out that after years of conventional leftist stands on gun control, capital punishment, abortion, and other key issues, Obama had a “complete transformation” as a presidential candidate. Instead, the media chose to shield him from scrutiny.  We cannot tell a lie, said John Harris and Jim VandeHei in Politico.com. The McCain-Palin campaign got “hosed in the press, and at Politico.” In fact, a Pew Research Center study found that Obama “had more than twice as many positive stories” than McCain. Indeed, there were days when the lack of balance in our coverage—the fact that “nearly every story” was about McCain’s campaign floundering or Obama’s soaring—“made us cringe.” But this wasn’t the product of ideological bias, because McCain really was floundering, while Obama ran a nearly flawless campaign. You’ll see the same bias in the sports section, said Andres Martinez in Thewashingtonpost.com. Winning teams get more favorable coverage than losing teams. Is it wrong to report the truth? With McCain frantically changing messages almost daily, and Palin stumbling incoherently through interviews, artificially presenting “an equal ratio of ‘positive’ to ‘negative’ stories” would have been a gross disservice to readers and viewers. Come now, said Michael Malone in ABCNews.com. When I started out in journalism 30 years ago, the first thing they taught us was that “pure, Platonic objectivity in reporting” is impossible, but that it’s a reporter’s job—or it was—to at least try to be fair. “That means constantly challenging our own prejudices, systematically presenting opposing views, and never, ever burying stories” that don’t fit the prevailing narrative. That didn’t happen in this election. Maybe it was the historic nature of Obama’s candidacy, or the traditional media’s desperation to compete with the gleefully opinionated bloggers and cable news networks, but for the first time in my adult life, I’m “embarrassed to admit what I do for a living.”

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