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Obias where art thou?

Troy Keith, The Armchair ConservativeNow that the primary nominations have finally been resolved, the candidates may refocus their attention across party lines and the familiar media drumbeat for the Democratic nominee will once again be heard throughout the dog days of summer.

I watched with interest, and a great deal of amusement, as the Clinton machine often received the short end of the ‘press coverage stick' throughout the primaries, but I have every confidence that business as usual will resume shortly and the universe will be returned to order and predictability (quantum theorists please excuse the generalization).

It's highly unusual for any Democratic figure to receive mainstream media scrutiny, much less, any coverage that could be perceived as even moderately negative, so I wanted to catalog some of the year's notable events for the sake of posterity.

Obama's questionable associations with former terrorist and outspoken critic of the United States, Bill Ayers, his relationship with Tony Rezko, who is currently facing federal charges of attempted extortion, money laundering, and fraud, his blatantly inflammatory remarks regarding this country as well as those of his wife, his Pastor of twenty years, Reverend Wright, paid campaign staffer and communist sympathizer Sam Graham-Felsen, and many others directly associated with the campaign are not even considered within the scope of this piece although they have not been given more than obligatory mention within the primary networks.

In a March memo to Democratic super delegates, founder of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, Walter Shorenstein stated: “I am absolutely outraged with the media coverage of the presidential campaign. This is the most important election in my long lifetime, and to quote one of my favorite movies, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’”

Shorenstein also added, "Is it in the country's best interest that voters received far more information about Hillary's laugh than Obama's legislative record? Is it good for our nation that more attention is paid to the differences in their speaking style than their healthcare plans?"

For the full report: click here

According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, 84 percent of Obama's coverage has been positive compared to 51 percent for Clinton. The CMPA also touted the coverage of the much maligned FOX News Network as being the most balanced. This comes as little surprise to me but I've found that the vast majority of Democrats I speak with have a very negative impression of FOX despite the fact that they never watch the network.

"FOX's coverage of Hillary Clinton was evenly balanced — 50 percent positive and 50 percent negative and FOX was also twice as substantive as the broadcast networks. Almost one-third of all stories on FOX (30 percent) dealt with policy issues, nearly double the proportion (16 percent) on the networks. FOX also carried less coverage of the horse race and candidate tactics than any of broadcast networks." According to CMPA.

Brent Baker of the Media Research Center recently commented on the endorsement of John Edwards, saying "ABC, which on May 14 was so excited about the John Edwards endorsement of Barack Obama that its 6:30 p.m. feed of World News went live to Obama introducing Edwards — complete with a Bruce Spingsteen song as Edwards bounded on stage — on Tuesday night cut into Boston Legal at 10:08 p.m. EDT/9:08 p.m. CDT to go live for 14 straight minutes of a triumphant Barack Obama at a rally in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (CBS stuck with Without a Trace and NBC with Law & Order: SVU, though both ran Special Reports earlier to report Obama had secured the Democratic nomination.) After cutting away from Obama, ABC aired just over two minutes of excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s earlier non-concession address and then a minute-and-a-half from Republican John McCain."

Referring to a recent piece in Vanity Fair, Bill Clinton stated, “It’s part of the national media’s attempt to nail Hillary for Obama. It’s just the most biased press coverage in history. It’s another way of helping Obama.”

How is it that an overwhelming number of black voters for Obama is considered to be accepted and perfectly normal, yet a majority of whites voting for Clinton is translated as racism?

In addition to over-emphasizing the positive aspects of his future presidency, the mainstream media has also been remiss in their coverage of the numerous gaffes attributed directly to Obama.

Anyone over 25 must surely remember the crucifixion Dan Quayle received in 1992 over his inability to spell the word potato. Numerous stories and jokes about the event can still be found throughout the web even 16 years later, but how many have seen comparable coverage of Obama's recent assertion that he has campaigned in 57 of the 58 states? An interesting side note from the International Humanist and Ethical Union: "Every year from 1999 to 2005 the Organization of the Islamic Conference, representing the 57 Islamic states, presented a resolution to the UN Commission on Human Rights."

When addressing a Memorial Day crowd, Obama acknowledged the "fallen heroes" that were somehow present and watching his speech in the following quote: "On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience today — our sense of patriotism is particularly strong."

When a report ran on CNN's Election Center the Obama sound bite had been changed to "On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes, our sense of patriotism is particularly strong."

While campaigning in Sunrise, Florida, Obama said, "How’s it going, Sunshine?" and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he greeted the people of "Sioux City." After a heavy defeat in Kentucky, Obama claimed "I’m not very well known in that part of the country… Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it’s not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle." Geography may not have been my strongest subject, but doesn't Obama's home state of Illinois actually border Kentucky?

Well, so what? I would ultimately have to agree with Mr. Shorenstein's previous assessment that the media has much better things to focus upon, but the point of my argument is that had McCain made similar mistakes, the coverage would have been relentless and unforgiving.

There are numerous other examples of contradictions and outright mistakes, but the end result and virtual pass given by the news networks has been the same. The bias is widespread and the coverage remains consistently slanted whether the issues are related to actual policy, voting records or candidate "senior moments."

Rather than allowing the corporations (networks) of America to both select and then shamelessly promote our political candidates, we should be given the opportunity to decide for ourselves based upon a fair, accurate and timely presentation of the facts, but unfortunately that's not the way business is conducted in the modern political arena.

Obama's National Anthem

National anthem photo — Iowa campaign event

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
- Sesame Street

  • Mike of TC

    It’s about time we here the truth and facts concerning whats going on in the media. It amazes me that people still think the main stream media isn’t biased. We have become dumbed down more and more everyday in this country by the left, that has convinced us that we can’t think for ourselves. They say (and think?) everything that abc, cbs, cnn ect say are facts, when acually they are opinions. They don’t report the news, they make it their “own”. What a JOKE! Thank you for the straight stuff, Troy, and keep up the good work!

  • Troy Keith

    Thanks for the feedback Mike.. the whole bias issue is obviously an important one for me. Once you have info from a story’s source or data that contradicts popular opinion, it’s amazing to skim the networks and see how each interjects their own spin to everything. You seem to already be already aware of this, but if I can convince even one person to watch the network news with a little skepticism I’ll feel like this has all been worth something.

    I was recently talking to a family member about the subject and the gist of his response was that the networks DO show both sides of a story and that the American public expects their newscasters to provide the news from the standpoint of their opinions. He also suggested that “people who expect interpretations of the news to be neutral or ‘true’ to the facts, do not understand interpretation as a human activity.” I couldn’t disagree more with either of those statements, but I’ll have to paraphrase my response below.

    From what I’ve seen recently, I’d have to say that nearly all media coverage seems extremely biased and it’s getting more and more blatant. I’m sure that even the Clinton campaign would agree with me on that one given the network’s pre Rev. Wright love affair with Obama. I’m sure they’d also agree that had Obama been given even a modicum of scrutiny during the early primary phase, Hillary Clinton would now be the uncontested nominee.

    Yes, Fox has an obvious slant but I at least get the impression that they attempt to present both sides of the issues – more so than most networks anyway. From what I’ve seen, both sides are seldom shown in the mainstream news and certainly not with the same level of objectivity.

    If we continue to accept this, the first thing that comes to mind is a comparison of our corporate media to that of the press in the former Soviet Union – disseminating the party line with the clarity of a one way mirror.

    When President Johnson said, speaking of the Vietnam war, “if we’ve lost Cronkite, we’ve lost the country”, I think it was indicative of the increased media influence after WWII and their self-elevated status as an unspoken (or outspoken?) 4th branch of the government. Was Cronkite’s “opinion” so important that he could directly affect US policy? Apparently so.

    As a ‘conservative’, I’m sure I’m out of step with many of my fellow citizens and I’m also pretty sure I’d feel differently if things were slanted the other way – kind of like telling the other team to get over it when the ref makes a call in favor of your side.

    Personally, I think the role and responsibility of the media should be to accurately dispense the facts rather than function as an opinion or propaganda outlet. Maybe that’s expecting too much of the American public, but shouldn’t we be capable of “interpreting” the news in a raw format w/o the help of a talking head? When I check the forecast, I want to know what the temperature is and whether or not it will be sunny tomorrow – not whether the meteorologist thinks 70 degrees is too hot or that he or she doesn’t think we need another day of rain.

    When CBS legend Dan Rather is ousted for “fabricating” rather than reporting the story, alarm bells go off for me. When the press marvels at Bill Clinton’s ability to “prevaricate with perfection” yet crucifies Scooter Libby’s “lie” unrelentingly for months, it seems like the bias has become out of control. If Chris Matthews states that he gets a “shiver up his leg” after an Obama speech, should I expect to get fair info on MSNBC regarding Hillary or John McCain? What about everyone watching his show that isn’t aware of his goose bumps?

    Opinions in the news should be relegated to the editorial page or the Sunday talk shows and clearly labeled as such. If I subscribe the National Review or American Spectator, I already know what to expect and make the choice freely because they proclaim their conservative viewpoints. Magazines like Time or Newsweek (in my opinion) attempt to portray themselves simply as “news magazines” representing the views of mainstream America. Certainly the primary networks do the same.. In a perfect world, it would be great if people sought out both sides and made their own conclusions, but my experience has been that most take the word of 60 minutes as the ultimate truth – if they even have the time or inclination to watch at all.

    Try suggesting to the average Democrat that he or she watch FOX news or listen to Bill O’Reilly sometime and get ready for the fireworks. Then ask if they’ve ever watched or listened before forming their opinion and I would bet the answer more often than not is “no”.

    There are greater questions in regards to what is deemed newsworthy by our society. Death almost always trumps life, tragedy reigns over triumph etc. Why are US military shortcomings worth more coverage than building schools or developing the infrastructure of Iraq? If unemployment is down or the market is up, what’s the purpose of adding “but less than expected”? I’m sure that much could be said from a psychological standpoint regarding what makes the “news” of a given society and I wonder if our outlooks would all be different if the stuff of lead stories dealt with a family helping a homeless person or a mother’s victory over cancer.

  • Bob

    With respect to the RE the current editorial staff leans quite hard to the left. I am always surprised when I see that rare bird a RE editorial that I can concur with. It is like listening to NPR I don’t expect balance, and at least with the RE any money contributed is a willing choice. Oddly even with the RE’s strong left bent the other smaller local publications like Northern Express are even further to the left.

    The financial success of Fox News speaks volumes. Clearly a large portion of the public must have felt that their views were not being heard. Perhaps Alan Campbell ( http://www.leelanaunews.com/ ) should take a lesson there, and he could give a conscious right/America first bias and eat some of the RE’s lunch. Then again perhaps he knows more than me about what it takes to run a community weekly and his local focus is the right thing to do. I do think he does the local focus with a more even hand in the selection than the RE does.

    TK, why do you think the media should have any “responsibility” other than to make money for their owners? It seems counterintuitive for someone with a stated Libertarian bias.

    To her credit, Jeanne (webmaster@record-eagle.com ) seems open on the blogs to anyone that is willing to put in the effort required. Most of the blog content is local events/culture type of content rather than politics, and that makes sense to me as a focus for a small local paper.

    TK, just a small criticism I think you are listing the multiple examples to illustrate the issues you are writing about, but the volume of them seems to give your posts a bit of a talking points rather than a discussion feel.

    On a separate note, I am not sure if you have heard of Steve Sailer’s Affordable Family Formation posit, but I think it goes a long way to explaining the local conditions. Look at Leelanau’s shift from solid Republican and track it with home and land prices. I think the same may be true of Traverse City, but if it ever had a conservative tilt it predates my experience.
    http://blog.vdare.com/archives/2005/05/08/affordable-family-formation-the-neglected-key-to-gops-future/

  • Troy Keith

    Hi Bob – your point is well taken. Given the political climate around here, I’m often coming from a defensive stance and probably attempt to over-emphasize my position, but I’ve also found that it can take upwards of 20 references to counter one “Couric Colloquialism”.

    The intro post to this blog was intended to be an invitation for others to get some topics started, but I suspect the readership simply isn’t that large. It would be interesting to see some stats comparing the circulation of the paper to their web site traffic and blog hits. Regardless, I’d hope that over time we can generate some good discussion on the issues.

    To answer your question about media responsibility, I think a distinction should be made between a network’s agenda (corporate or otherwise) and the dissemination of what’s supposed to be “factual news”. Hopefully reliable, straight-forward news would translate into larger audiences. Given FOX’s numbers, you’d have to think that their advertising is at a premium compared to other networks. I have no problem with differing editorial stances, I just think they should be labeled as such. My opinion was not intended to advocate censorship, just honesty. Have to run right now, but I’ll definitely take a look at the Sailer info later this afternoon – or you can post the highlights here.

  • http://www.record-eagle.com Webmaster Jeanne Hubbard

    Troy, Record-Eagle.com has more than 11,000 readers daily, as opposed to the 29,000/40,000 weekday/weekend circulation for the print edition.

    The blogs, however, are less-read than the regular news on the site. Whereas our site gets about 2 million page views monthly, the blogs get about 10-20,000 page views. Contrast that with the local news section at around 400,000 page views.

    I keep stats on individual blog entries as well, and Troy’s introduction post has so far gotten 250 page views; ‘What Happened,’ 111; and ‘Obias’ 53. Our analytics program is not real-time, so those numbers might be a bit higher. Also, while your posts appear on the home page of Record-Eagle.com and the home page of the blogs, we only count a page view to that post if the “More” link is clicked on.

    I find that the blogs are better read than the number of comments might otherwise indicate. There’s lots of “lurkers” out there.

  • Andy Spencer

    Troy wrote: “Obama’s questionable associations . . . Bill Ayers . . . Tony Rezko . . . Reverend Wright . . . Sam Graham-Felsen, and many others . . . are not even considered within the scope of this piece although they have not been given more than obligatory mention within the primary networks.”

    As I see it, the only point of this is that the primary networks are much less relevant than they are today when it comes to how people get their information. I don’t own a television and haven’t seen “the networks” for years. Yet I know as much and more than I’ll ever be able to remember about the “questionable associations.” More media means people have other options for getting news. I would argue it is far easier now to search for the elusive truth on any given issue than it has ever been. Controversial topic? Go to http://www.wsj.com, then http://www.nytimes.com, then the blogs you read. Once you’ve read from all angles, see how you feel on the issue. The internet gives us great access to information, which in the long run will be good for politics. The more information, the better.

    As an example, this picture of Obama is often posted with the implication that he doesn’t like America or is a violent muslim sympathizer, or whatever the story may be. It’s nice that one can look up interviews on the subject, pull up video of Obama with his hand over his heart leading the Pledge of Allegiance in the Senate, and find interviews with many people on both sides of the “issue.”

  • Troy Keith

    Hello Andy.. I hope that everyone will start to get their news from a variety of sources – ideally coming from both sides of the equation. The photo was meant to be more tongue-in-cheek than anything else, but I think it exemplifies the level to which Obama is out of step with the American public. I did read the various explanations, but it seemed to go well w/the Sesame Street theme nonetheless.

    Once Barack is away from the teleprompter he seems to make repeated “gaffes” that exemplify his disdain for average citizens or simply show his ignorance (used in the literal sense, not to say that he’s “stupid”). If I remember correctly, his first explanation was that his father had taught him to hold his hands clasped in front during the national anthem and over the heart for the pledge, but regardless, shouldn’t someone his age (and in his position) know the difference? Whether it’s his foreign policy, “bitter people clinging to their guns & bibles” or Michelle never being proud of America – the statements keep coming followed by two weeks of explanations and revisions (and then a declaration that the subject is ‘out of bounds’ for the rest of the campaign).

    I have no doubt that he makes the obligatory gesture at the appropriate times, but I can’t help feeling that he does so with insincerity – maybe that’s just my take on him, but there’s something about his persona that I haven’t trusted right from the start. Personally, I’d much rather have another Clinton in the office than Obama, but maybe that’s like saying I’d rather have the measles instead of the mumps?

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