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Post-election MSM mea culpas continue

posted at 11:30 am on November 24, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Now that the election has safely gone to Barack Obama, the mainstream media can finally admit what most of us knew all along. Mark Halperin at Time Magazine put it in perhaps the strongest terms at a media conference last Friday, calling it "disgusting" and the worst coverage he'd ever seen in his career - by far:
Media bias was more intense in the 2008 election than in any other national campaign in recent history, Time magazine's Mark Halperin said Friday at the Politico/USC conference on the 2008 election.
"It's the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war," Halperin said at a panel of media analysts. "It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage."
Halperin, who maintains Time's political site "The Page," cited two New York Times articles as examples of the divergent coverage of the two candidates.
"The example that I use, at the end of the campaign, was the two profiles that The New York Times ran of the potential first ladies," Halperin said. "The story about Cindy McCain was vicious. It looked for every negative thing they could find about her and it [cast] her in an extraordinarily negative light. It didn't talk about her work, for instance, as a mother for her children, and they cherry-picked every negative thing that's ever been written about her."
The story about Michelle Obama, by contrast, was "like a front-page endorsement of what a great person Michelle Obama is," according to Halperin.
Let's not forget the means in which that hit piece on Cindy McCain got reported, either. If we want to talk disgusting, we should recall that NYT reporter Jodi Kantor trolled Facebook for teenagers who might know Bridget McCain in order to get dirt on her mother. Clark Hoyt mentioned my post in his ombud column last week, only gently scolding Kantor for her methodology without bothering to mention at all the context of the hit piece she wrote about Mrs. McCain. Kantor's editors reacted more strongly, with one saying, "As a parent, I would probably not have responded well if one of my kids had gotten a question like that from any adult, much less a reporter."
Of course, it's easy now for Halperin and others to acknowledge the "disgusting" media bias in this campaign. It's over, and they risk nothing by issuing these critiques. Where were they during the election? Halperin has an influential, widely-read spot at Time Magazine, but never mentioned this "disgusting" bias during the general election. On September 7th, Halperin linked without comment to Time's skeptical report on McCain's claims of media bias. On October 29th, he quoted McCain alleging media bias in the William Ayers coverage, again without comment. Other than that, a search of Halperin's work at The Page turns up no other instances in which Halperin even mentions media bias in the general election.
To Halperin's credit, he did tell Howard Kurtz on Reliable Sources in October that the media displayed bias in the way they handled Obama's rejection of public financing. Still, given the opportunity, Halperin never took the opportunity to broaden his criticism of the campaign reporting to anything approaching this scale. It's very convenient to speak with such authority when it no longer would make a difference.
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