…Or, two Washington Posts in one: “The political media’s declining power,” is the topic explored by Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan at the WaPo:
A new Pew report on the state of the media exposes one of the worst-kept secrets in politics: reporters are losing their power to frame presidential contests for the average citizen.
“Campaign reporters were acting primarily as megaphones, rather than investigators, of the assertions put forward by the candidates and other political partisans,” according to the report. “Only about a quarter of statements in the media about the character and records of the presidential candidates originated with journalists in the 2012 race, while twice that many came from political partisans.”
Here’s a look at how those 2012 numbers compared to past presidential elections:
That’s a remarkable reversal in how people are getting their information about the presidential candidates and reflects two realities.
1. Technology has enabled candidates/campaigns to more effectively end-run the mainstream media. President Obama’s campaign team has used everything from his Twitter feed to the images that official White House photographer Pete Souza sends out via Flickr to sell their preferred image of the nation’s chief executive to the country. That is an image not filtered through the media in any way, shape or form.
2. There are simply fewer reporters than there were a decade or two decades ago due to the contraction of the news business — particularly when it comes to newspapers and magazines. “Estimates for newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30 percent since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978,” according to the Pew report. With fewer reporters and more to cover — thanks to the endless churn of social media, cable television and so on and so forth — the tendency to do a sort of paint-by-numbers reporting takes over.
It reflects another reality, which the Post won’t address anytime soon; as Byron York wrote in 2010, “At [the] Washington Post, Mum’s the Word on the JournoList.” Not to mention how its successor has been used by Washington Post journalists to attempt to destroy anyone who pursues stories that tarnish the current president — even if it means tarnishing the reputation of the best-known journalist to have ever been employed by the Washington Post.
Last night on Hannity, Dr. Ben Carson posited, “If ever the mainstream media reaches a point where they recognize that if we destroy this nation and destroy the economy, they, too, will be destroyed, I think at that point they will start asking the tough questions and helping to move the population in the right direction.”
I admire his optimism, but I think Dr. Carson is being rather naive on this one: given which party the vast majority of the “objective” media has voted for in the last 50 years, they’re perfectly prepared to go down with the ship — which they believe will somehow be miraculously righted at any moment. (See also: the man is hiding his stash somewhere fallacy.)
Update: “The MSM Is Disappointed in Itself,” Seth Mandel writes at Commentary:
The truth is, if the Post is unhappy about the press acting “as megaphones, rather than investigators,” it only has itself to blame. Before Romney was the target, Democrats felt threatened by Texas Governor Rick Perry. So the Post published a story meant to be damning toward Perry’s character, in which it breathlessly reported the existence of a hunting property leased by Perry’s family that once had a rock with a racial epithet painted on it but which no one can find today. Before the Post went after Perry, the paper decided to weigh in on the 2009 Virginia governor’s race by attacking Bob McDonnell’s 20-year-old college thesis and publishing about a story a day on it for the first week or so. McDonnell won the election easily, needless to say. And the Post tried to dig up dirt on Marco Rubio, found nothing, and pretended it found something anyway. The Post story was quickly debunked.
Read the whole thing.