Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Press Press Pull

There are whole onion layers of "disturbing" in this discussion of the role of the media in the election. And it isn't always in what is said outright.

Not least of which (as Reader, who called it to my attention, pointed out), is the partisans of both Democratic candidates responding to the perceived softness of the media toward their rivals with thinly veiled calls to either hunt down and harass individual reporters even on the local level (and it already has begun, at least where I am) or take up the pitchforks and join the anti-immigration right in a mob movement to trash media credibility entirely.

Which, once done is not easily undone. And as flawed as the current media is, or what's left of it, what will take its place when it's gone?

But what's also disturbing is the frank acknowledgment of a media defender of the neurotic personal intimacy between newsrooms as a class and certain candidates.

Jane Hamsher says: “The media have locked their sights on Obama.” If she’s referring to what happens when the perception of Obama love becomes strong enough within the press corps that they self-consciously look for ways to bring some bad noise … yeah, that moment is here. (And it can happen with the press and McCain, too.)

The reporters get emotionally invested in their subjects. They become passionate -- for or against, and it filters back into the parts of the media that don't ride the campaign buses. Then at some predictable moment, they all become aware of how shameless they have been and throw the coverage into reverse, just to prove -- to whom? -- that they're fair and objective, in a process that reveals nothing but the opposite.

The post, and some of those it quotes, point out how this makes the defenders of the public's right to know look like a pack of 14-year-old nerdboys having a crush on that cute brunette in the saxophone section, even in a profession that has acquired a reputation as a pink-collar ghetto.

Newsrooms, in my experience, are far less diverse than the cities they cover. For instance, I've worked with many men who came of age in the 1960s. From their generation, almost 3 million went to Vietnam and about 100,000 fled the country to avoid the draft. The draft dodgers I've worked with in newsrooms outnumbered the veterans 2 to 1. In younger generations, when there was no draft, I have never met a military veteran in a newsroom. I don't think most of my peers would have any idea why someone would volunteer in the military.

Which, added to Dr. Johnson's observation that "Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea," all goes a long way to explain the irrational media adulation of John McCain, a topic PressThink has obsessed over lately.

I imagine most people would want to think their news sources practice a detached and ruthless quest for the facts that would be suited to Sherlock Holmes. Election years reveal there is no Sherlock on the bus.