Req: A, N
That’s the question that has been making the rounds among journalists lately.
The Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson doesn’t think so.
The theme of press bias, however, is woven through the Clinton campaign’s narrative of the story thus far. There are two basic allegations: that journalists look at Obama uncritically while subjecting Hillary Clinton to microscopic scrutiny; and that we react with hair-trigger reflexes when attacks on Obama have the slightest whiff of racism but don’t seem to notice, or care, when Clinton is subjected to rank sexism.
The first charge is just bogus, in my view. Like Clinton, Obama has developed position papers on all the major issues. Clinton has been able to highlight the differences between her proposals and Obama’s — for example, the fact that her plan for universal health insurance includes a mandate, whereas Obama’s does not. In debates, she has had the chance to challenge his approach and defend her own. It is not the media’s fault if voters do not agree with Clinton that nominating Obama would be a “leap of faith.”
It is true that the candidates’ stump speeches are markedly different: Clinton’s is about competence and diligence, Obama’s about hope and change. But journalists didn’t write those speeches, campaign speechwriters did. And any reporter or commentator who failed to note that Obama is an exceptional public speaker would be guilty of journalistic malpractice.
Reporters are busy combing through Obama’s personal, professional and financial history, just as they have examined the lives of the Clintons. Obama has facilitated this process by releasing his tax returns, which Clinton has declined to do. It is not unfair to point this out.
[Continue reading Hillary vs. Obama]
Former PBS “Newshour” reporter Terence Smith disagrees.
The coverage of Hillary during this campaign has been across-the-board critical, especially since she began losing after New Hampshire. She may have brought much of the negative reporting on herself, sometimes with the help of her husband. Able and articulate as she is, Hillary can be as polarizing among the media as she is with the public.
And her campaign has taken the tough-love approach with the reporters who cover it, frequently ostracizing those they think are critical or hostile. That kind of aggressive press-relations strategy may sometimes be justified, but it rarely effective. Reporters are supposed to be objective and professional. But they are human. They resent the cold shoulder, even if they understand the campaign’s motivation.
The result is coverage that is viscerally harsh: her laugh is often described as a “cackle.” Her stump speech is dismissed as dry and tiresomely programmatic. She is accused of projecting a sense of entitlement, as though the presidency should be hers by default, that it is somehow now her turn to be president. When she makes changes in her campaign hierarchy, she is described as “desperate.”
[Continue reading Tough on Hillary]
A similar debate regarding Republican candidates had been waged on conservative talk shows, with most hosts arguing that the media strongly favored John McCain over many other candidates, especially Mitt Romney.