New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan posted Monday on a report by two "centrists" ludicrously lambasting the media for letting Mitt Romney get away with lie after lie during the campaign: "Did the Mainstream Press Really Bungle the Campaign’s ‘Single Biggest Story’?"
In one of the most fascinating media-related pieces I’ve read in a while, Dan Froomkin interviews Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, two longtime Washington observers who wrote a book together and soon after, they say, found themselves near pariahs in a city that didn’t want to hear what they had to say.
Sullivan swallowed the silly overstatements from Mann and Ornstein relayed by Froomkin, and pointed out a rare instance of praise from one of the media-bashers, of Times reporter Jackie Calmes. In Froomkin's words:
Some reporters did better than others, [Norman] Ornstein said, particularly crediting Jackie Calmes of the New York Times and David Rogers of Politico among a few others. "They grew a little bit more straightforward in what they do, and showed you can be a good, diligent unbiased reporter, report the facts, put it in context, and yet show what's really going on," he said.
Sullivan nodded along to the strange idea that the press wasn't tough enough on the Romney campaign.
I find Mr. Ornstein and Mr. Mann’s observations smart, provocative and on target in many, though not all, places.
I disagree, for example, that the move toward fact-checking has made the press’s performance worse. On that subject, I agree with The Times’s political editor, Richard Stevenson, who told me last September in a column I wrote on this subject that he saw the move toward “truth-squading” as “one of the most positive trends in journalism that I can remember.” But to take it one step further, I believe that fact-checking should be more integrated into every story and not treated as a separate entity off to the side.
The Times certainly used "truth-squading" as a convenient way to bash both Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, while sparing Obama.
Jackie Calmes in August claimed that "the number of falsehoods and misleading statements from the Romney campaign coming in for independent criticism has reached a level not typically seen." Her colleague Michael Cooper wrote in September that "some independent commentators have argued that the Romney campaign appears to be more dishonest at this point in the campaign."