Those of us who follow the news closely often forget that probably 80% of the adult population (seen as 85% some time ago, but likely lower than that thanks to New Media and the Tea Party movement) is relatively disengaged. They are, at best, passive consumers of news who either legitimately don’t have the time to do their own independent research, or don’t care to.
If we had a responsible establishment press dedicated to informing the public in a fair and balanced way, this would not necessarily be a big problem. But we don’t, and it is.
In 2011, passive news consumers were extremely ill served, as the leftist legacy media seemed to almost completely abandon any pretense of objectivity or fairness left over from its disgraceful collective performance in 2010.
Why did this happen? Beyond the normal factors, 2011 saw White House thuggery directed at a press corps already inclined to reflexively parrot its positions reach previously unseen heights.
To name just three examples:
- In March, Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers, sent to cover a fundraiser involving Vice President Joe Biden and Florida Senator Bill Nelson, was confined in a closet “to keep him from mingling with high-powered guests.” Sentinel editors “dropped the story.”
- In April, the White House banished San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci “for using a video camera to capture an event.” The paper was “threatened with more punishment if they reported on it.” Chronicle Editor at Large Phil Bronstein called the White House’s subsequent attempt to deny it all “a pants-on-fire moment.” Press coverage elsewhere was scant.
- In May, the White House Press Office “refused to give the Boston Herald full access to President Obama’s Boston fund-raiser” because it objected “to the newspaper’s front page placement of a Mitt Romney op-ed.” The shutout was virtually ignored.
In a mid-May editorial, Investor’s Business Daily called out the press for failing to stand up for it own, and correctly characterized the White House’s actions as baby steps “toward state control of the media, using the carrot of access against the stick of exile.”
Nothing has changed. In December, a Washington Post item noted that “when a reporter gets something wrong or is perceived as being too aggressive, the pushback is often swift and sometimes at top volume” (including heavy doses of profanity). What do you guys expect when you just sit there and take it — something you would never do under a conservative or Republican administration?
It’s reasonable to believe that the constant threats of White House pushback and especially of access denial significantly drove this year’s extraordinarily negligent coverage of the administration’s scandals, corruption, policy failures, and misleading statements. What follows are just ten out of dozens of this year’s worst examples of media malfeasance. Except for the final two, which are clearly this year’s most egregious, they are in no particular order. In most cases, there was no press coverage, or no further coverage, of the items cited.
1. ”I am (possibly) the greatest.” In a 60 Minutes interview with the president which aired on December 11, CBS failed to include Obama’s preposterous claim about his accomplishments to date: “I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history.” Note well that the superiority of the three other gentlemen cited is only “possible.”
2. “Taunt a Republican for me.” In early December, an Obama for America campaign email asked supporters to in effect taunt their Republican acquaintances when donating by providing their email addresses so that OFA could do it for them in their name. Two days later, OFA added the ability to taunt anonymously.
3. Yet another word for “lied.” In September, Bruce Siceloff at the Raleigh News & Observer identified a false statement Obama made in a Tar Heel State appearance: “In North Carolina alone, there are 153 structurally deficient bridges that need to be repaired.” After interviewing state officials who asserted that North Carolina has no such bridges, Siceloff reached this “brave” conclusion: “[T]he president may have over-suggested the risk to public safety.”
4. “Scandal-free” pretense. As Fast and Furious, Solyndra, MF Global, LightSquared and a myriad of other instances of corruption and cronyism continued to swirl around the administration, at least five media and academic apparatchiks continued to insist that it has been and still remains pure as the driven snow. Among them: commentators Brendan Nyhan, Kevin Drum, Jonathan Alter, and the especially odious Andrew Sullivan, along with American University history professor and presidential prognosticator Allan Lichtman, who described things as “squeaky clean.”