Cal Thomas cries AHA! upon reading the Sunday column of The Washington Post‘s ombudsman, in which Deborah Howell writes:
Neither the hard-core right nor left will ever be satisfied by Post coverage — and that’s as it should be. But it’s true that The Post, as well as much of the national news media, has written more stories and more favorable stories about Barack Obama than John McCain. Editors have their reasons for this, but conservatives are right that they often don’t see their views reflected enough in the news pages.
For Mr. Thomas, this is an occasion for pontificating (in a column he wrote for tomorrow) about "what’s wrong with modern media." For me, I’m reminded of "All the President’s Men," which I watched again over the weekend.
There’s a great scene in which Hugh Sloan is trying to explain himself to a fidgety Woodward and Bernstein. "I’m a Republican…" he begins, to which Redford’s Woodward, eager to keep this critical source talking, says, "So am I."
In response, Dustin Hoffman’s Bernstein gives Woodward this look. As focused as he is on the goal of getting Sloan to talk, he registers surprise, for just an instant. His look seems to say, "What did you just say? Going a bit far to ingratiate ourselves with this guy, aren’t we?" The look combines incredulity with a touch of acknowledgment that maybe it IS true, and if so, this Woodward guy is really a different animal.
I really don’t know what newsrooms are like these days because I haven’t worked in one in a while, but in my day it was extremely unusual for anyone to declare a party preference, but a far greater rarity to say, "I’m a Republican." I can think of one reporter I had over the years — one out of dozens — who made a point of saying that, and it was sort of the running gag — he was the "office Republican." He left the paper in 1982 to go to work for a newly elected GOP congressman — Don Sundquist. Now he’s a lobbyist for the insurance industry. I’ve mentioned him here before: Joel Wood.
There have been reporters who, if you forced me to guess, I would guess leaned Republican, and plenty of them who leaned — some very heavily — to the Democrats. But Joel’s the only I remember who made a point of it. Come to think of it, I can only think of one reporter who made a big point about being a Democrat, and he did it to an embarrassing degree. He wasn’t nearly as cool about it as Joel. And why do I just say "leaned" when I speak of the others? Because it’s nothing I would quiz people about, not back in my news days, anyway.
So yeah, Woodward was a different sort of critter, certainly back in Ben Bradlee’s day, and probably today. In another column, Ombudsman Howell says the following:
While it’s hard to get some readers to believe this, I have found no hint of collusion between the editorial and news pages in my three years here. The editorial board’s decisions have nothing to do with news coverage. In fact, Len Downie, who just retired as executive editor, famously didn’t read editorials, and the computer system has a firewall that prevents the newsroom from seeing the editorial staff’s work.
Republican-leaning readers — along with some who say they are Democrats — have overflowed my e-mail inbox saying that The Post is biased in favor of Obama. As I’ve noted before and will again, Obama has gotten more news and photo coverage than McCain.
Of course, readers who tilt to the right will say that with news people being instinctively, reflexively liberal, you don’t need any collusion. (The Post, by the way, endorsed Obama — even after years of agreeing more with McCain on Iraq.)
I’ll close this post with a quote from yet another Howell piece, and this is an experience that everyone in the business can identify with, whatever their biases or lack thereof:
When I came to this job in October 2005, I heard more from Democrats who thought The Post was in George W. Bush’s back pocket. The Post was "Bush’s stenographer." Now I hear mainly from Republicans who think The Post is trying to elect Barack Obama president.
Yup. Been there, heard that.