AP Headline: 'Is Media Playing Fair In Campaign Coverage?'

July 20th, 2008 7:04 PM

Have the broadcast networks gone too far with their obvious infatuation with presumptive Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama?

If the Associated Press is starting to think so, maybe the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz was right on Sunday when he warned "Reliable Sources" viewers that "there could be a big backlash against news organizations if this trend continues."

On the other hand, wouldn't it be nice if the repercussions Kurtz presaged came from other media members similarly disgusted by what is passing for journalism this election cycle?

Consider what the AP's David Bauder had to say about this issue in an article published moments ago with the headline, "Is Media Playing Fair In Campaign Coverage?" (emphasis added throughout, h/t NBer nkviking75):

Television news' royalty will fly in to meet Barack Obama during this week's overseas trip: CBS chief anchor Katie Couric in Jordan on Tuesday, ABC's Charles Gibson in Israel on Wednesday and NBC's Brian Williams in Germany on Thursday.

The anchor blessing defines the trip as a Major Event and — much like a ``Saturday Night Live'' skit in February that depicted a press corps fawning over Obama — raises anew the issue of fairness in campaign coverage.

The news media have devoted significantly more attention to the Democrat since Hillary Rodham Clinton suspended her campaign and left a two-person contest for the presidency between Obama and Republican John McCain, according to research conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Network anchors stayed home during McCain's recent foreign excursions.

"The question really needs to be posed: Is this type of coverage fair?" said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. "This is nothing but a political stunt."

Maybe even more surprising, Bauder got Rush Limbaugh's opinion on the matter:

``My prediction is that the coverage of Obama on this trip will be oriented toward countering the notion he has no idea what he is talking about on foreign policy and defense issues and instead will prop him up as a qualified statesman,'' Limbaugh told The Associated Press. ``McCain, on the other hand, is a known quantity on these issues and his position does not excite nor fit the mainstream media's narrative on Iraq and Afghanistan, so they simply ignore it and him.''

Bauder, sounding almost like a member of the MRC, even quoted some statistics:

For each of the weeks between June 9 and July 13, Obama had a much more significant media presence. The Project for Excellence in Journalism evaluates more than 300 political stories each week in newspapers, magazines and television to measure whether each candidate is talked about in more than 25 percent of the stories.

Every week, Obama played an important role in more than two-thirds of the stories. For July 7-13, for example, Obama was a significant presence in 77 percent of the stories, while McCain was in 48 percent, the PEJ said.

Sure, there are some weeks Obama's going to make more news, said Tom Rosenstiel, the project's director.

But every week?

``No matter how understandable it is given the newness of the candidate and the historical nature of Obama's candidacy, in the end it's probably not fair to McCain,'' he said.

Why are media suddenly recognizing that which we at NewsBusters have been saying for more than a year? Well, put on your cynical hat, and read the following:

If the attention gap continues, the campaign will essentially become a referendum on Obama, Rosenstiel said. While that may serve McCain's purpose — it beats a referendum on President Bush — it could leave the nation electing a president while the media are paying attention to someone else. Past press infatuations, like Howard Dean in 2004 and McCain in 2000, didn't turn into long-term affairs.

Hmmm. Is it possible all this media introspection is actual a function of their Obama adoration, and these folks are suddenly becoming concerned that past precedent suggests it could backfire on them?

Stay tuned.