Peter Wehner writing in the Weekly Standard magazine:
Some conservatives think that the elite media are finally turning on Barack Obama and his administration.
The argument goes like this: The trio of scandals that have burst forth in the last couple of weeks–the events before, during, and after the deadly attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi; the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups; and especially the Department of Justice’s secret subpoenas of Associated Press phone records and targeting of Fox News reporter James Rosen as a potential co-conspirator in a leak investigation–will mark an inflection point. From here on out, journalists will apply far more scrutiny to President Obama. His free ride is over.
Don’t believe it.
In saying this, we don’t mean to suggest that journalists won’t ask tough questions or say critical things about the administration from time to time. But sooner or later they will–with a few impressive exceptions–revert to their ways. We are, after all, dealing with deeply ingrained habits and ideological commitments.
Take the New York Times. On May 17, in a story about how President Obama is trying to move beyond his current problems, the Times declared, “In the last few days, the administration appears to have stopped the bleeding. The release of internal e-mails on Benghazi largely confirmed the White House’s account.”
Except it did no such thing. The White House’s account was that neither it nor the State Department made any substantive changes to the talking points related to the Benghazi attacks. We have irrefutable evidence–actual documents–that they did. The White House’s account was that a YouTube video critical of Muhammad sparked a spontaneous assault on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. Except this is a fabrication.
Journalists have been more critical of the administration in the IRS and Justice Department-press stories. But even there the criticisms of the president and his top advisers have been relatively restrained. And certainly the intensity of the coverage has been far less than if this were occurring under a Republican president.
The state of journalism and the media business in general is actually working in favor of expansive coverage of the scandals. While the relatively uninteresting business of covering politics and government day to day may play into the obvious biases of the media relating to how they cover the administration, when it comes to scandals — especially those that touch directly on the interests of the press as with the AP story — competition drives the intensity of coverage.
Uncovering the facts of the IRS scandal for a media outlet means a ton of online clicks and increased readership. In these very tough times for newspapers, especially, getting the story first and accurately is of paramount importance.
In any big story like the IRS, AP, and even Benghazi scandals, reporters don’t see red or blue; they see green. While some journalists will continue to carry water for the administration, most will rush to expose the facts as this means more eyeballs watching their network and more newspapers sold. It really is that simple.
Wehner is correct that eventually the stories will peter out, the well will run dry, and it will be back to business as usual. But the damage will have been done, and even if the press will be in the tank for Democrats in 2014, it’s hard to see the media maintaining the same level of adoration and complicity in pushing the Obama narrative forward.
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