The votes are in: An overwhelming loss for mainstream media

The votes are in. Barack Obama is the definite winner. In many minds, however, the clear loser is the mainstream media. Bloggers and others working in citizen media around the world have long raised complaints about the mainstream press. Regular citizens have also been voicing their displeasure, especially if you count the falling fortunes of newspapers in the United States and some other parts of the world.

Certainly, some post-election grousing against the media is opportunistic. By painting the media as pro-Obama, could it be that John McCain's loyalists are looking to place the blame somewhere? Yet this year even so-called “independent” viewers have brought up the problems facing U.S. media: treating the election like a horse race; focusing on candidate personalities rather than policy; foolishly devoting important resources to follow the scandal du jour while missing the larger picture: what voters want from their leaders.

The list goes on. Here is what a few international bloggers are talking about:

In a post before Election Day regarding the difficulty predicting this election because of polling irregularities, Sam Westrop, writing in the the Nouse blog from York University, UK, bemoaned the loss of objectivity in U.S. reporting.

The true villain is actually the media – their shameless selective reporting, their composition of supercilious ideals and their lack of objectivity have irrevocably destroyed the continuation of a nonpartisan candid and free press. Although keen to malign other Democrats and the Republicans, the media has been hesitant to report news and rumours about Obama: from the incongruous gap between the discovery and the media report of the villainy of Reverend Wright’s speeches, to the bizarre association with Bill Ayers, and now the LA Times is overrun with requests that they persistently ignore, to release videotape they possess of Obama with a suspected PLO terrorist named Rashid Khalidi. Why would a very large newspaper not release a sensational news story so pivotal as this?

Are the associations with Obama uncovered by the right as serious as some would paint them? Not at all. However, the burnt soul of the unscrupulously bias media is poisoning the democracy of the Western countries. This same media is to blame for the misinformation and intolerance in politics that breeds bountifully during times of wanton ideals. Furthermore, there is always independent thought, which leaves the opinionated editors and columnists shouting at deaf ears. And certainly the hurly burly media world can no longer explain a truth or encourage an honest purpose; it is an impotent force, multiplying in presence but with a fading influence; useless in a world of disobedient readers.

Over at New Zealand's Kiwi Blog, in a post mortem on the McCain campaign, a commenter named Redbaiter laid the Arizona Senator’s loss in the polls on the mainstream media:

If Obama does win, the lying communist inspired mainstream media will forever be remembered for their dereliction of duty in failing to subject this Marxist thug and his shady US and international backers to the scrutiny they should have. A massive failure of responsibility and one that in my mind will forever make them worthy only of contempt and disdain. Liars, propagandists and fakes who have betrayed the craft of journalism to the craft of Joseph Goebbells.

In a different comment, Redbaiter had this to say of people who found Sarah Palin to “be a shallow, mis-informed person who has probably risen further than she should have.”

..and you find that because you have brought lock stock and barrel into the lies of the propagandists at TV One, TV 3, the Herald and every other lying left wing pro-Obama outlet out there. (and a few embittered Conservatives with political axes to grind) You should have more f**ken sense. Surely by now you can see past the lies of these manipulators of public opinion? The cowards and smearers who daily sacrifice individual liberty to their great god of universal socialism.

Double Blind in Canada points out before Election Day that if Obama wins, negative voting stories won’t surface.

Because of an expected wide (wider than this prediction) margin of victory, you don’t see the pro-Obama media talk about voter fraud or anything of that ilk, unlike 2004. I’d almost be curious to see the reaction (voter fraud accusations) if McCain actually managed to win the election, but this won’t happen.

According to Blog Bot writing in the UK-based Democracy Forum, the problem with the mainstream media isn’t new. In fact, it helped hobble the Bush administration. Here’s how Blog Bot described that coverage:

Nasty, vicious and distasteful or, as the Americans put it, classless. You don't have to agree with the man or his politics but the sort of hate campaign we have watched in the last eight years (and, let's face it, with our own media participating in it) is a disgrace to politics. Mind you, the sort of hate campaign that was produced against anyone who challenged The One, President-Elect Obama, was also a disgrace and bodes no good for the next four years….

Why is it important to us apart from the fact that who is elected to the American presidency matters and if this happened after a dubious campaign it is of great importance? Just think of the way our own media reports matters unchallenged and you will see the connection.

Unfortunately they won in America in 2008 not least because the Republican presidential candidate was not exactly top notch. But I predict that this will be their last hurrah. Even people who decided to vote for Obama could see the manoeuvrings and the MSM will pay for their behaviour. Can we say the same in Britain? And if not, why not?

Representing the defense, Megan Case, who is now in Falun, Sweden, dispels a few theories on “the nonexistant liberal bias” in the U.S. media. Here are a few out takes:

“Balanced” news coverage does not mean taking the sum total of every crazy thing that everybody believes and finding the center point. The non-opinion pages of the news are supposed to report facts. Do they always? No. But if the facts tend to fall to the left of your nutjob opinions, what does that tell you? This reminds me of the argument that we have to teach creationism in school to give kids a “balanced” perspective. Come on.

There's also the problem of putting stories in context:

Maybe the problem lies in the fact that the media doesn’t really foreground the issues anymore. Instead of saying, “here’s Obama’s tax plan, here’s McCain’s tax plan, you decide”, the media reports on what the candidates were wearing and how many people were at the last rally and which commentator on the competing network said something mean about one of the candidates and don’t even get me started on Joe the Freaking Plumber. It’s not news, it’s meta-news, and it is a huge waste of time and resources.

Lest we forget about the right-wing dominated media, Jennifer Fallon's Blog (from Australia) published a post after keeping an eye of Fox News in the US.

I have watched this election in utter fascination, particularly the language of the spin doctors. My favourite network, the… ahem… news channel, Fox, is so adept at this that once I have my Masters, I'm tempted to go ahead and do my PhD on the Language of Spin.

The spin doctors are quite something to behold, but Fox takes it to a whole new level. Under the banner of “fair and balanced” they have headlines like:

“Does an old friend from Obama's scout troop when he was 10 have proof that he may be a communist!”

“Is Sarah Palin really being put forward to the Pope as a possible saint?”

“Is is true that Joe Biden was found drunk in a strip club at Halloween dressed as a transvestite?”

“Was Joe the Plumber kidnapped by aliens?”

You see, that's the brilliance of their rhetoric. They suggest the most outrageous things in the form of questions (over which they cannot be sued), and even if the answer is “of course not, don't be ridiculous!” it doesn't matter, because they repeat the headline a score of times in the hour, before getting to the 30 second sound bite where they announce, “well, actually, no, but an anonymous blogger suggested it on Twitter so we thought we'd run with it for a while.”

By then, of course, through the power of repetition (remember how you learned your multiplication tables) you're quite convinced Joe Biden is a transvestite, or poor Joe the Plumber is being anally probed (which might account for a few things..hehehe) because you never get to hear the clarification.

It is utterly masterful and I can tell you now, if I ever decide to take over the world, I'm gonna make sure Fox is on my side, first.

After that, mere world domination ought to be easy….


Andy Worhtington, a UK-based writer writing in Information Clearing House, brought up journalists’ refusal to quiz either candidate on the Bush administration’s “unprecedented adherence to the controversial ‘unitary executive theory’ of government.”

Writing in the Netizenblog in Germany, Rhonda Hauben first explains that European (mostly German) media coverage of the race to the White House followed the too simple formula of only talking to convicted Republicans or Democrats, while most of Americans are middle-of-the-road independents. However, she reserved her most potent criticism for U.S. media, which is neglecting it’s Constitutionally mandated role:

The conversations I have had while in Europe have helped to clarify that the press is an important component of a functional political system. There is a need for a press that accurately presents the problems of the society and provides the basis for a broad ranging debate on these problems. The failure of the American media to fulfill this function not only contributes in a significant way to the serious political and economic problems facing American society, but similarly leads others around the world to develop a false view of America and of the American people. Instead of U.S. institutions providing an inspiration or a helpful model, they are an example of the abuse that unchecked power can lead to. The lesson from the many conversations with Europeans about the U.S. presidential campaign I had these past two weeks is that there is a serious need for an alternative to the U.S. mainstream media if there is to be any significant change in U.S. government policy toward the rest of the world and for there to be elections in the U.S. that have any chance of expressing the needs and choices of the American people. Relying on any of the candidates to bring the needed policy changes is not adequate.

Let’s take the open press argument one step further. If one role of media is to expand political dialogue, why is it only covering America’s two major political parties? From Gottfried Stutz who blogs from Syria:

Why do CNN, Fox, the BBC, TF1, ZDF, Al-Jazeera, you-name-it call this particular vote “historic”? The vote is not. The result… perhaps.

Imagine a 2% vote or more for all third parties lumped together despite having been kept out of any debate and having benefited from very little media time. Now that would be historic.

Is part of the problem that journalists think readers are too shallow (or busy) to bother with complicated political debates? We have a rare glimpse into the minds of working journalists, from the blog at Maclean’s — Canada’s only national weekly current affairs magazine:

There is a constant debate in newsrooms about whether readers have any patience for long discussions of politics. And of course, a hell of a lot of readers don’t. What we’ve found at Maclean’s since we started giving it a try, however, is that there are always enough readers who will follow us as far as we want to go in such discussions.


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