Media Critics Multiply

The scribes of the blogosphere came down with the Campaign Desk bug over the weekend and weighed in with their own criticism of campaign coverage (or the lack thereof).

First off, Atrios, pegging his commentary to the large turnouts at Kerry/Edwards events, opines that “There are moments of disconnect, when the reality on the ground diverges sufficiently from the media spin that people start realizing something’s up.” With head-to-head polls, crowds, and approval ratings all working in Kerry’s favor, it’s time, says Atrios, for the press to acknowledge that this race isn’t so close after all. “In another year, the press would be (rather unfairly) writing Bush’s epitaph and painting him as an inevitable loser. I’m not suggesting that’s the appropriate way to cover this (or any) campaign, but they do seem to be doing a pretty good job of not mentioning the obvious — right now, Kerry’s ahead, and that isn’t good news for that other guy.”

But it’s not all rosy for Kerry, as one of his most persistent nemeses, the self-described “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” have received a flood of publicity after a TV advertisement the group released last week. Sam Rosenfeld of “Tapped” takes a shot at Li’l Russ for replaying the ad on Meet The Press without informing either his guests or his viewers that only one of the members of SBVT served under Kerry. Rosenfeld writes, “Everybody was nice and indignant about the commercial’s bad form, including [William] Safire — but for the respectable right to disavow such a campaign while never making its basic mendacity clear is, of course, part of the whole idea.”

Pandagon’s Jesse Taylor is appalled by Bill O’Reilly’s recent comparison of the liberal media watchdog Media Matters to the Ku Klux Klan. Taylor gives us a brief sample of each group’s work and signs off, “For O’Reilly, those are equivalent. What a sweet guy.”

Over at the conservative haven RedState, Robert Tagorda deconstructs David Halbfinger’s Sunday New York Times Political Memo, in which Halbfinger asserts that Kerry’s reaching out to moderate voters is evidence of a candidate more confident in his base than his Republican rival. Tagorda concedes, “Halbfinger actually has a defensible case.” “But,” Tagorda continues, “he completely ignores the possibility that, in a close general election, motivating the base is as important as — if not more important than — seeking moderates. Bush’s conservative gestures may therefore be deliberate, not desperate.” Furthermore, Tagorda takes issue with the media’s reluctance to brand Kerry’s critical references to the Saudi royal family as pandering to his liberal base. Tagorda writes, “As far as I can tell, it’s as much an appeal to Michael Moore fans as it is to ‘isolationists and others concerned about the nation’s economic security.’ Yet Halbfinger makes no attempt to rethink his narrative of an independent-minded Kerry.”

While Tagorda offers a plausible critique, we conclude with one that isn’t. Captain Ed, writing on “Oh, That Liberal Media!” isn’t happy about an Associated Press story that details the plight of the homeless on New York’s West Side during the Republican Convention. Noting that the removal of homeless is essential to all secure areas, Captain Ed grumbles, “Unfortunately, since this is the Republican convention, the media reports this basic security concept as a heartless blow to the homeless.” It’s even more outrageous, says Ed, because a Google search reveals not a single mention by the press about Boston’s handling of the homeless, which Ed presumes was the same.

Campaign Desk hates to burst the Captain’s bubble, but a search of print publications, not Internet websites, brought us a story about the homeless from the May 13 Boston Herald that led, “Faced with strict security concerns for July’s Democratic National Convention, Boston officials will address what could be one of the thorniest issues confronting organizers — what to do with the homeless who live and panhandle near the FleetCenter.”

This leaves Campaign Desk wondering if there are any soldiers out there who served under the “Captain’s” command who might be willing to testify about his own reliability as an after-action reporter.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.