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Monday, July 28, 2008

Media favor Obama

Although this is an American issue and not an Israeli one (and is therefore slightly off topic), I thought that this editorial - which appears in today's JPost print edition - was excellent. Of course, it's still unlikely to serve as a wake-up call.
For the past week, Democrat Barack Obama's trek through the Middle East and Europe has enjoyed enormous -- including lengthy interviews with three network anchors -- and mostly favorable coverage. By contrast, when Republican McCain arrived in New Hampshire Monday, he was met by one reporter and one photographer. The New York Times, which on July 14 ran a long piece by Obama that basically restated his long-held views on Iraq, rejected a rebuttal offered by McCain on grounds that it broke no new ground.

This is not a one-week phenomenon. The Project for Excellence in Journalism has been tracking major media coverage of the campaign and reports that since Hillary Clinton ended her challenge, Obama has been prominently featured in 78 percent of stories, McCain in just 52 percent. Even in the week that coverage was nearly equal, there was an 11-point bulge for Obama. Clearly being featured in a news story is not always a good thing -- think of Obama explaining his ties to Jeremiah Wright -- but the impression of imbalance is unavoidable.

Professionally, it's not hard to explain the focus on Obama. News, by definition, is what's new or different. A charismatic black American with a storybook backstory who might be president is about as new and different as it gets. Obama's also run a remarkably smooth campaign and enjoyed enormous luck: Even the surge he refuses to admit worked in Iraq has changed the debate there. McCain, like Hillary Clinton, is selling experience at a time when Americans seem to want change. To a degree, news coverage reflects that.

But there is a tipping point that threatens the credibility of the press. A Rasmussen Reports poll taken before McCain's op-ed dust-up found that 49 percent of Americans thought news organization favor Democrats -- up five points in a month. Only 24 percent think journalists play it straight -- bad news for our profession.
A couple weeks ago, I met with someone who used to work for Arthur Finkelstein, who explained to me the phenomenon of Obama's infamous web site. Basically, Obama has taken advantage of Web 2.0 technology to allow his supporters to determine the content on the site. It's worthwhile to him to have to take down the occasional 'really out of line' post because in return he has some 800,000 'activists' who have accounts at MyBarackObama.com. Those 'activists' have caused a groundswell of support that has actually influenced the mainstream media coverage.

Obama's 800,000 'activists' have been enough to tilt the mainstream media coverage in Obama's favor. Unfortunately, McCain is not techno-savvy. For him to produce that kind of groundswell of support, someone else would have to set up that kind of web site. And now it may be too late.

That's not to forgive the mainstream media - their pro-Obama tilt in this election is blatant and unforgiveable and the 'news reporting' has taken on an editorial-like tone. Maybe by the next election they will eviscerate completely.


At 4:17 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

In America as in Israel, the newsroom are dominated by the hardcore Left. The difference in America thanks in no small part to talk radio and the blogs, that monopoly is breaking down. In Israel it hasn't yet reached that stage.


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