A candidly scathing piece about media bias in Politico Tuesday amounts to an indictment of the so-called “mainstream press” and a subtle-in-no-way critique of an entire profession that was caught so completely off-guard last Nov. 8 that it made clear, according to the writers, that “the national media just doesn’t get the nation it purportedly covers.”
Politico’s Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty summed it up nicely from the get-go:
“News organizations old and new, large and small, print and online, broadcast and cable assigned phalanxes of reporters armed with the most sophisticated polling data and analysis to cover the presidential campaign. The overwhelming assumption was that the race was Hillary Clinton’s for the taking, and the real question wasn’t how sweeping her November victory would be, but how far out to sea her wave would send political parvenu Trump. Today, it’s Trump who occupies the White House and Clinton who’s drifting out to sea—an outcome that arrived not just as an embarrassment for the press but as an indictment.”
The Politico piece refers to an article by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight who ripped what the story calls “the ideological clustering in top newsrooms led to groupthink.” Among other criticisms Silver heaped on the media was that, “The political diversity of journalists is not very strong, either. As of 2013, only 7 percent of them identified as Republicans (although only 28 percent called themselves Democrats with the majority saying they were independents).”
Still, when one does the math, that’s more than a 3-to-1 margin of the press corps tilting to the “D” side. Silver added that “Of the major newspapers that endorsed either Clinton or Trump, only 3 percent (2 of 59) endorsed Trump.” There’s a lesson in that.
Writing recently in the Orlando Sentinel, David Whitley had this observation: “Actually, media bias was apparent long before Trump arrived. He has merely accelerated the collapse of journalism into tribal warfare that leaves readers not knowing where to turn for the truth.”
One can almost hear the gnashing of teeth on keyboards in the editorial offices of major newspapers, not to mention broadcast news agencies. The looks of anguished astonishment on the faces of MSNBC and CNN anchors late on Election Night as it became obvious that Trump had trounced Clinton with Electoral College votes came closer to the truth than anything those cable networks had produced in alleged “fake news” during the campaign. Here’s an example.
But the bias has continued, according to Whitley, and he used the Susan Rice controversy to reinforce that assertion:
“It was curious that Rice said she knew nothing about the situation two weeks earlier. At least you’d think it would be curious to the capital’s intrepid journalists.
“The New York Times buried the Rice story on page A-16. The Washington Post ran no story. On their evening news programs, CBS did 45 seconds, while ABC and NBC did zero.
“CNN morning anchor Chris Cuomo called it a ‘fake scandal’ with “no evidence of any wrongdoing.”
The proverbial “bottom line” to all of this is that if this media bias is as entrenched as these writers, who are all journalists, are asserting, the next four to eight years could be a long, long process of self-destruction for a profession that should be vibrant, curious, and above all impartial and informative.