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 V.17 No.40 | October 2 - 8, 2008 

Thin Line

Mom, the Media's Hitting Me

Man, do Sen. John McCain's people ever get tired of crying foul over the press? It's his camp's default defensive position. Steve Schmidt, a senior campaign adviser, deflected a touchy question on Monday, Sept. 22, by falling back on the old, "The media's out to get us."

With the following statement, Schmidt effectively painted a portrait of McCain as the little guy and the New York Times as the ferocious behemoth: "This is an organization that is completely, totally, 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate, which is their prerogative to be. Everything that is read in the New York Times that attacks this campaign should be evaluated by the American people from that perspective."

So what was that in response to? A reporter asked a question during a conference call about an article the Times published. The story focused on McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, who was paid about $2 million by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to shield them from strict regulations.

Given that the companies are among those accused of playing precarious numbers games that could potentially cost taxpayers billions, this was not an unreasonable article nor an unreasonable question.

Schmidt just didn't have a good answer, so he changed the subject. Transparent, no? Except in many articles, the headline became something like, "McCain Team Says NYT in Bed with Opponent," not "McCain Chief Paid by Sketchy Mortgage Dudes to Deflect Regulation."

Though I may criticize the cowardly "but the media's hurting me" defense, it’s effective at burying real stories (like the one about McCain’s campaign manager) under articles pummeling the press for “unfair” treatment.

Boring Economy Stories

Financial crisis story after economic disaster story gets top billing in every news source everywhere. I can't help but wonder if this pending catastrophe could have been lessened if the press had done a better job of covering financial issues in the first place.

Budget coverage, business happeningsthose tales have been marked "too boring" for mainstream news TV. They find their way into newspapers but are often written in language too complex for even readers doggedly paying attention to understand. They never make it onto the evening news, because there's no image to go along with them. If you can barely read it in a newspaper, it sure as hell isn't going to play well on TV.

But I don't buy the idea that some stories are just "boring," destined for dull gray interior pages. This is the kind of stuff TV news has a duty to report and find a way to make interesting. The first job of the press is to inform people. The bailout money will come out of everyone's pocketregardless of whether they understand why.

 

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