Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Kind of Accountable Lip Service (If Nothing Else) We Need From the Mainstream Media

Acknowledgement is the first step toward recovery at Politico:
New Hampshire sealed it. The winner was Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the loser — not just of Tuesday's primary but of the 2008 campaign cycle so far — was us.

"Us" is the community of reporters, pundits and prognosticators who so confidently — and so rashly — stake our reputations on the illusion that we understand politics and have special insight that allows us to predict the behavior of voters.

.... Many journalists are enamored with [John] McCain because of the access he gives and, above all, the belief that he is free of political artifice.

Hillary Clinton, cautious and scripted, got the reverse treatment. She is carrying the burden of 16 years of contentious relations between the Clintons and the news media.

Many journalists rushed with unseemly haste to the narrative about the fall of the Clinton machine. On this score, reporters are recidivists. The Clintons were finished in 1992, when Bill Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign was rocked by scandal. In 1993, when Time pronounced him “The Incredible Shrinking President.” In 1994, when Hillary Clinton botched health care and Democrats lost Congress. In 1995, when Bill Clinton pleaded he still had “relevance.” In 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal sent the Clinton presidency reeling.

Hillary Clinton's comeback in New Hampshire this week probably shared a trait in common with those earlier episodes: The media frenzy itself became part of the story, contributing to a sense of piling on and making people more sympathetic to the candidate.
If only more journalists spoke with such candor.

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