Eric Cantor’s primary defeat last week came as quite a shock to many in the MSM, though not at all to David Steinberg here at PJM. in the New York Times, David Carr explores the insular mindset that caused so many in old media to miss the signs that it was building:
There are a number of dynamics — political, cultural and economic — at work. Congressional races are a mess to cover because there are so many of them, and this year, the House of Representatives is not in play while the Senate most definitely is. The math of covering someone who may become one of only 100 senators is far easier.
The same forces that keep politicians penned up within a few blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue work on journalists as well. No one wants to stray from the white-hot center of power for fear of being stuck in some forsaken locale when something big happens in Washington — which is why it has become one of the most overcovered places on earth.
That Beltway provincialism is now multiplied by the diminution of nonnational newspapers. The industry as a whole is about half as big as it was in 2007, with regional newspapers suffering acute cutbacks. In just the last year, five reporters with decades of experience have left the Richmond statehouse.
Plenty of reporters are imprisoned in cubes in Washington, but stretched news organizations aren’t eager to spend money on planes, rental cars and hotel rooms so that employees can bring back reports from the hustings. While the Internet has been a boon to modern reporting — All Known Thought One Click Away — it tends to pin journalists at their desks. I was on a panel with Gay Talese some time ago, and he said, “We are outside people,” meaning that we are supposed to leave our offices and hit the streets. But the always-on data stream is hypnotic, giving us the illusion of omniscience.
The media love to feign promises that they’ll do better next time after they blow a big political horserace, as Howard Fineman did in early 2005, when it was embarrassingly clear that the MSM had propped up the hapless Kerry campaign, and as the late former Washington Post ombudswoman Deborah Howell did in November of 2008 after it was obvious to everyone that her paper was deeply in the tank for Obama.
But perhaps if the New York Times was going to publish an article this week on how the smugness and insularity of the Beltway Media caused them to miss Eric Cantor’s looming defeat, perhaps it shouldn’t have assigned it to someone who infamously referred to voters in middle America — who share many of the same values as those in Cantor and Brat’s district as “the dance of the low-sloping foreheads” on national TV, as I wrote right around this time in 2011:
“If it’s Kansas, Missouri, no big deal. You know, that’s the dance of the low-sloping foreheads. The middle places, right? …Did I just say that aloud?”
Yes, yes you did — and it’s not the first time you’ve used that riff, either. If a quote falls on Friday night at 10:00 PM on HBO, no one will hear it, but fortunately, this one has been captured in handy embeddable video form.
The New York Times’ David Carr drops the mask, and lives out artist Saul Steinberg’s classic 1976 “View of the World from 9th Avenue” New Yorker cover. But the view from the Times’ editorial bullpen is a curious paradox, isn’t it? On an episode of Mad Men, I believe it was John Slattery’s Roger Sterling character who quipped something like, “If only we didn’t have to deal with clients, advertising would be a great business, eh?” Similarly, the New York Times wants to hold itself out as The Paper of Record — yet absolutely loathes the people who consume their product — and especially hates its potential readers, who have been driven away by such elitism.
I’d say “MSM, heal thyselves,” to conclude this post, but that assumes that the MSM are actually in the business of performing journalism, as opposed to being Democrat political operatives with bylines, who view America and its people accordingly.