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Sun October 5, 2008
Media bias and the coronation of a rock star
By Richard Nelson
Murray, KY – He's a rock star, a political savior and he's running for president. But Sen. Barack Obama's recent whirlwind tour of the Middle East and Europe may have left doubts as to what exactly he's running for: President of the United States or leader of the European Union?
The European throng came just short of placing palm branches on the road before Obama's cavalcade in Berlin (not Jerusalem). They clearly love him - 72 percent of Germans said they'd vote for him, but they can't weigh in on this election. At least not yet. And the media, enamored with his performance, stood ready to crown their prince in Berlin - perhaps a fitting location to be enthroned even though Obama is not in the Hapsburg line.
Without question, Sen. Obama is a dynamic candidate and articulate speaker. He can move a crowd, but does this justify the media establishment's infatuation with him? The media's courtship of Obama is indicated by how much time they recently spent covering his campaign. According to a recent survey, Obama received 114 minutes of network coverage last month compared with McCain's 48 minutes. Since January, Obama has 389 minutes of network coverage to McCain's 203 minutes.
McCain, once the darling of the media, especially when he defied core Republican principles, now knows how it feels to be jilted.
Daniel Schorr of National Public Radio justified the unequal coverage this past weekend by saying that Obama is making news and McCain is not. Whatever the rationale, the press establishment must realize that such imbalance in coverage amounts to free advertising for the Democratic nominee. On July 30, CNN reported on both candidates equally - kind of. The two-minute clip reiterated that McCain's skin cancer had not returned. The report on Obama emphasized that he will work to expand freedom and liberty of the American people. Translation to prospective voter: old man with skin cancer or young man who will make you free?
This is not real journalism. It is advocacy journalism. Good journalism will report dispassionately. It should give both sides of a story equal time and report equally on a given topic. (I'm sure McCain would have liked to weigh in on the freedom issue). Good journalists should give political candidates equal coverage throughout an election. But that's not happening here.
Consider that last week, all three network anchors - Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams - followed Barack Obama to Europe and the Middle East. McCain has been to Iraq eight times and Afghanistan four since the war began and has yet to be accompanied by such a string of paparazzi. The New York Times gladly printed Obama's essay on his plans for Iraq. But they promptly denied McCain the same opportunity unless he changed the content of his piece to "mirror" Obama's perspective.
Establishment media is making the news today. Could they be doing any less to help Sen. Obama get elected? Whatever the case, American voters see through the facade of the media's pretense of objectivity.
According to the latest Rasmussen Reports survey, 49 percent of voters believe that a majority of reporters will try to help Sen. Obama with their coverage while only 14 percent believe that most reporters will try to help Sen. McCain win. The perceived bias for Obama has probably edged upwards since the survey took place before The New York Times debacle.
Media bias is nothing new, but they are doing voters a disservice when they feign impartiality. Allegiance should be to the truth, not to a particular political candidate. Then again, truth and fairness appear to be obstacles for the king makers devoted more to a coronation than delivering unbiased news to the American voters.