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That Old Time Media Bias

I am glad to read that members of the media are grappling with the issue of whether or not they are being fair to John McCain in conducting their Obamacentric coverage of the Presidential election campaign (note the statement by the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism that “No matter how understandable it is given the newness of the candidate and the historical nature of Obama’s candidacy, in the end [the coverage is] probably not fair to McCain”). But identifying the problem is not enough; something must be done to solve the problem of press coverage that demonstrates dramatic favoritism towards one candidate. After all, it isn’t as if the public hasn’t noticed who the press is rooting for:

The belief that reporters are trying to help Barack Obama win the fall campaign has grown by five percentage points over the past month. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey found that 49% of voters believe most reporters will try to help Obama with their coverage, up from 44% a month ago.

Just 14% believe most reporters will try to help John McCain win, little changed from 13% a month ago. Just one voter in four (24%) believes that most reporters will try to offer unbiased coverage.

And, of course, stories like this one don’t help the perception of the media–or at the very least, they shouldn’t:

An editorial written by Republican presidential hopeful McCain has been rejected by the NEW YORK TIMES — less than a week after the paper published an essay written by Obama, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

The paper’s decision to refuse McCain’s direct rebuttal to Obama’s ‘My Plan for Iraq’ has ignited explosive charges of media bias in top Republican circles.

‘It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama’s piece,’ NYT Op-Ed editor David Shipley explained in an email late Friday to McCain’s staff. ‘I’m not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written.’

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In McCain’s submission to the TIMES, he writes of Obama: ‘I am dismayed that he never talks about winning the war–only of ending it… if we don’t win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president.’

NYT’s Shipley advised McCain to try again: ‘I’d be pleased, though, to look at another draft.’

Shipley claims that the reason he accepted Obama’s op-ed on Iraq was that in addition to attacking McCain, the Obama op-ed also offered Obama’s own views. The McCain op-ed, however, does offer McCain’s views on the issue of Iraq, in addition to taking Obama to task. In addition, Obama is currently on his world tour and while he will soak up a lot of media coverage for his foreign policy views, he should, by the same token, also soak up some criticism for those views–not least from his opponent in the Presidential election.

It is clear that the media has a long way to go before it is going to convince reasonable observers of its impartiality. It is not impossible to do so but the effort must begin now. We have a Presidential election coming up. We need to ensure that an informed decision is made and the more the media shows that it is in the tank for Barack Obama, the less confidence people will have that the appropriate information to make that decision is being afforded to the voting public.

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