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Ed Driscoll

Tomorrow’s Post-Election MSM Apologias Today

October 13th, 2012 - 5:00 pm

Back in late 2004, Rush Limbaugh had lots of fun playing an interview that Tina Brown (now editor of Newsweek) had on her little-seen CNBC show with David Westin, then the president of ABC News, who said that the media needed to send the equivalent of foreign correspondents to the Red States, to witness firsthand how these strange people in the hinterlands live out their exotic day-to-day existences, and why they rejected the suave and debonair John Kerry for that hayseed George W. Bush:

WESTIN: I think we don’t do that enough, and I’m not just talking religious communities. I’m talking all sorts of communities across the country. I think that… You understand this, Tina, living in New York or in Los Angeles, we have busy jobs. We go into the office every day. We tend to socialize with the same people, or the same types of people, and I think it’s terribly important for journalists to get out whether it’s overseas or domestically and try to understand.

As Rush quipped, paraphrasing Westin, “We need more foreign correspondents in Alabama! We need more foreign correspondents north of Palm Beach County in Florida! We need embeds to go to church, find out what’s going on with these holy rollers! Ah, folks, you can’t know how much I love this.”

Also in November of 2004 after the election was concluded, when Brian Williams replaced Tom Brokaw, then-NBC president Jeff Zucker attempted to sell Williams to the public, by proclaiming to USA Today that “No one understands this NASCAR nation more than Brian.”

You can just smell the condescension in that statement, can’t you? And it didn’t take long for it to begin to appear repeatedly in Williams’ broadcasts. (In some cases what didn’t appear in Williams’ broadcasts was equally worthy of comment.)

(Not coincidentally, Jeff Zucker’s Wikipedia page has this ignominious subhead regarding Zucker’s tenure at the network: “President & CEO of NBC Universal: NBC Goes from First to Last in Ratings.”)

At Red State this week, Erick Erickson has a lengthy essay on the vast disconnect between the MSM and its consumers or, as Erickson notes — increasingly, their former consumers:

It is not that Fox News is, during its day time news, more conservative. It is that Fox News actually expends effort to ensure it relates to the values and world view of many more Americans than most major news outlets. But the average reporter for the average newspaper or other press shop would rather lament a conservative bias at Fox News than recognize most of them have a liberal bias much more detached from the average American. Outside of that news organization, very few are even interested in what middle class Americans within fifty miles of an American river valley not named Hudson even care about. The people consuming the news are not viewed as the intended consumers by the press. The intended consumers are those at their cocktail parties in Washington and New York who will herald them and give them Pulitzers and maybe one day a cushy job in a future Democratic Administration.

Festering the problem, many reporters, thought leaders in the press, and news executives rarely encounter people in the heartland any more. The Mississippi River Valley is something to be flown over instead of studied and covered unless there is a natural disaster. Additionally, the new breed of political reporter knows little about politics before Bush v. Gore, couldn’t care less to have a sense of history to give them perspective, embraces the cosmopolitan culture of elite environs in New York and Washington diving only into hipster dive bars to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon to connect in some superficial way with the rest of the country, leans left socially and fiscally, and maintains an increasingly secular world view nearly identical to that of their other young, hipster reporter friends. “Professing themselves wise, they became fools . . . ”

It is a painful truth.

But there is more.

Read the whole thing.

Every four years, whether their candidate wins or not, in the immediate aftermath of a presidential election, the MSM issues mea culpas after spending the year jamming their thumbs down hard on the scales, or issuing polls that in retrospect were wildly off. This practice isn’t new, but it’s accelerated due to the MSM’s being called out by bloggers, Fox News, talk radio, and other forms of alternative media.

Not that it makes much difference, of course. At the beginning of 2005, Howard Fineman, then of Newsweek (then owned by the Washington Post), wrote that “The ‘Media Party’ is over”:

A political party is dying before our eyes — and I don’t mean the Democrats. I’m talking about the “mainstream media,” which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush’s Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox’s canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards.

On November 16th 2008, the late Deborah Howell, then the Washington Post’s ombudswoman, wrote:

Thousands of conservatives and even some moderates have complained during my more than three-year term that The Post is too liberal; many have stopped subscribing, including more than 900 in the past four weeks.

It pains me to see lost subscribers and revenue, especially when newspapers are shrinking. Conservative complaints can be wrong: The mainstream media were not to blame for John McCain’s loss; Barack Obama’s more effective campaign and the financial crisis were.

But some of the conservatives’ complaints about a liberal tilt are valid. Journalism naturally draws liberals; we like to change the world. I’ll bet that most Post journalists voted for Obama. I did. There are centrists at The Post as well. But the conservatives I know here feel so outnumbered that they don’t even want to be quoted by name in a memo.

In 2011, Patrick Pexton, the Post’s current ombudsman, wrote:

The Post will always compete with the inside-the-Beltway journals and with the Times. It has to. But its future lies not with the rich; it lies with the citizenry. This newspaper must be the one source of high-quality, probing Washington news that readers in this region and across the country can look to for holding their government accountable. This publication must be for all Americans.

This means that The Post can’t be a liberal publication or a conservative one. It must be hard-hitting, scrappy and questioning — skeptical of all political figures and parties and beholden to no one. It has to be the rock-’em-sock-’em organization that is passionate about the news. It needs to be less bloodless and take more risks when chasing the story and the truth.

No matter what happens in November, we’ll see similar hand-wringing from ombudsmen at numerous MSM publications. And we’ll all know it’s just boilerplate, and nothing will change there, except an ever-diminishing subscriber list.

Update: “On Twitter, Washington Post reporter calls Ryan ‘Law & Order: SVU’ ‘perp of the week.’”

Rather nice of him to inadvertently prove our point.

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