Some on the left have been crying foul at CNN's decision to air live Rep. Michele Bachmann's response to the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night. None have been more vocal than MSNBC libtalker Rachel Maddow.
One media critic had enough. On Thursday, the Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik laid into Maddow's criticism, saying it derives from "the mentality of a lockstep party member, not a journalist." Zurawik's gripe was Maddow's insistence that because Bachmann was not officially representing a political party, her speech should not have been given comparable treatment to the president's or to Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican response.
Journalists "don't let political parties tell us who we should and shouldn't cover," Zurawik added. "I have a West Highland terrier named Bugsy who has better journalism credentials and chops than you do," he quipped.
Here is the Maddow segment at issue:
Apparently someone at MSNBC emailed Zurawik a link to that segment in response to a post praising CNN's (and Fox's) decision to cover Bachmann's speech.
The essence of my critique: The Tea Party has played a major role in shaping the new Congress, and it has already had a significant effect on American life. Given that, if you aren't sure about whether or not to cover, you err on the side of inclusion -- not exclusion. Provide citizens with as much information as you can so that they can make the best decisions about their lives.
But check out the video MSNBC thinks I should see and note that Maddow's argument boils down to this: Bachmann should not have been covered because she was not "ordained" by the Republican Party as its official responder.
This is the mentality of a lockstep party member, not a journalist. Unless the party "ordains" someone to speak, they shouldn't be covered by the press, in Maddow's thinking.
Memo to Maddow: That's not the way journalists think. We bring citizens as much information as we can whether THE PARTY ordains it or not. Just like we don't let the executive branch tell us which news operation is a "legitimate" journalistic enterprise, and which isn't, we don't let political parties tell us who we should and shouldn't cover. Journalism 101 at Goucher College where I teach.
CNN was right in covering Bachmann. And by the way, there are interns at CNN's Washington bureau who have better journalism credentials than you do, Ms. Party Operative Think. In fact, I have a West Highland terrier named Bugsy that has better journalism credentials and chops than you do…
NBC News has some outstanding journalists both in the field and in management. You don't see them saying this crazy political stuff. Someone might suggest to Ms. Party Think that she concentrate on trying to get competitive with Fox News on a nightly basis -- or come up with a way of addressing the civic life of the nation on election and SOTU nights so that it doesn't consistently leave MSNBC in last place on the big nights of American politics.