Friday, June 19, 2009
Personal Aside: Why the Networks Court ObamaTheres Money in it!
One issue that is consistently bypassed in discussions over liberal bias in the media is this: Forget whether news reporters, producers and network moguls agree with Barack Obama. We know they do. The salient issue is that they are courting Obama because doing so PAYS. Obama is attractive to the 24 to 46 year old audience that demographic studies show spend more the same group that figures strongly in radio and TV entertainment ratings.
Oh, 24 to 46 dont always react the way the demographers estimate, of course. Right now Conan OBrien is dipping under Dave Letterman: thats not supposed to happen. Thats the reason why, reportedly, an internal memo at NBC in Chicago has ordered the news staff to go soft on Obama.
I think that demographical appeal and marketing plays a great role in network coverage of political news. If that is so, and the charge has been aired recently the scandal is worsened. Bad as it is for reporters to show their bias by favoring a certain president while dissing his predecessor in handling of the news, it is still in the nature of cognitive judgment. But applying the same marketing standards to coverage of politics that are used in entertainment is utterly morally debased. It is the same only on a much higher level than a politician or candidate passing some quiet dough to a political correspondent for good placement and favorable treatment.
The ABC hosting of a two hour special on health carefrom the White House itselfis a serious indictment. Its medical director, Dr. Tim Johnson is going to be front-and-center on the issue. Johnson has already personally come out for universal federalized health care. This is a bold step by the network but itand others such as CBS and NBCdrop all pretense of objectivity with a shrug, for the major reason that they believe it pays in bringing youth demographics. That is the same as being bought. More than that, it is the same as the state-run networks in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez. So it is more than just network or reportorial bias. It is something more sinister than that: it is the prostitution of journalism, of being bought for a president with money on the barrelhead.
Liberal bias with mainstream media has been going on for a long timeat least as long as I have been covering politics since 1953 in Minnesota. But with the advent of Obama the bias has moved beyond personal, liberal political shading in favor of a candidate into active cooperation, co-optation of the media by the liberal Democrats. Example: everyone who covered the 2008 campaign knew but it wasnt reported that the airlines going to the Denver Democratic convention were jam-packed, hotels were jammed with elite media. Unless you started very early you couldnt get a reservation. The air terminal was packed. Lots of media came who werent even on assignment. But those elite media types were in scant appearance at the Republican convention.
The Center for Media and Public Affairs has determined that the three major broadcast networks gave Obama almost four times the coverage that George W. Bush received at the start of his administration. One need not be a conspiratorial fanatic to understand that this coverage comes more from simple, straightforward bias than recognition of hard marketing numbers. The TV networks and major (declining) urban newspapers have in an effort to salvage their numbers put their integrity on the auction blockand its disgusting but hardly ever reported in a profession that sanctimoniously thinks of itself as pristine and the peoples guardian.
Many of us who were small city journalists (I was city editor of a daily in a city of 25,000 in St. Cloud, Minnesota) know the temptation that would come to a publisher when the son of the owner of the towns department store (a store that advertised heavily in the paper, the ads often being the difference between the paper being in the black or going belly-up) would be, let us say, picked up by the cops in a nearby big city picking up an underage prostitute. Should the paper run the story or mask it or underplay it or let the AP handle it? There comes a time in every journalists life when a crucial question that this has to be handled. Well only on a much higher level, with much more prestige, the same question is confronting the mainstream media on Obama.
Very frankly, Fox News excepted, Obama is not getting scrutiny in the media the nation deserves to see. The administration fires inspectors general (there are now three who have been canned), is quite frankly at a loss to handle Gitmo; its violated its so-called sacrosanct canons about not hiring lobbyists. It executes U turns. And when it does the mainstream media obediently follows and executes U turns. In the old days you could say its a matter of ideology and theres no doubt that ideological simpatico is there. But even more uglyonce again, Fox excepted, its a matter of cash on the MSM barrelhead in the business offices which know that favorable Obama treatment and lavish treatment might well bring in the dough.
Very well, mainstream media are a business that demand profit. Then let it be done to make a profit. Just skip the sanctimoniousness with which the MSM cover other things. When Blago gets on talk radio, media screams at him. Hes doing this for two reasons: trying to swing one juror and get his name across so that he can sell his books. Media should just simply drop its denunciation of him for these thingssince media are doing the same thing, basically: hustling Obama for the pure and simple buck. And when Roland Burris is quoted on FBI tape having said that maybe he could raise a few bucks for Blago if he would favorably remember Burris when it comes time to name a Senator media should drop the sanctimony. Media are doing exactly what Burris ishustling for a buck. It matters not that Burris was hustling Blago or media were hustling readers by perfuming up Obama. Its prostitution of journalism pure and simple.