Journalism Professor: Media Shouldn’t Give ‘Unbalanced Candidate’ Trump ‘Balanced Coverage’

September 7th, 2016 11:41 PM

Complaints from liberal pundits about media bias against Hillary Clinton have snowballed during the past few days. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had the most high-profile effort, which contrasted “the impression that [Donald Trump is] being graded on a curve” with “the presumption that anything [Hillary] does must be corrupt,” and some of the others have taken aim at Krugman’s newspaper for its Hillary-hounding.

-- Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo sniped semi-sarcastically that the Times “appears to be revisiting its 'whitewater' [sic] glory days with its increasingly parodic coverage” of the Clinton Foundation and accused the paper of having “a decades' long history of being [led] around by rightwing opposition researchers into dead ends which amount to journalistic comedy…especially when it comes to the Clintons.”

-- The Week’s Paul Waldman thinks Times v. Billary, which began in early 1992 with the paper’s reporting on the Whitewater matter, resulted from the Gray Lady’s jealousy over The Washington Post’s role in Watergate. The Post, Waldman noted, “had achieved what not even the Times could claim: uncovering the scandal that brought down a corrupt president...There could be no greater journalistic achievement, and it was one that the Post, with a fraction of the Times' prestige, had accomplished. The possibility of a feat of equal magnitude was always waiting to be grasped like a golden chalice.”

Moreover, speculated Waldman, “the fact that Clinton was a Democrat only made the Times more eager: It would show once and for all that those overheated charges of ‘liberal bias’ were so much baloney, that the paper's ironclad commitment to professionalism far outweighed whatever partisan sympathies its personnel might indulge on their off days…What is strange is that so much later, even though most of the reporters and editors from the 1990s are no longer at the paper, its eagerness to find Clinton scandals seems undimmed.”

-- Brian Beutler of The New Republic asserted that liberals want only that the media be “consistently mindful of the asymmetry between” the “ignorant, unethical, racist authoritarian” Trump and the “conventional, if flawed and unpopular” Hillary. “The overarching expectation isn’t that the press should campaign for Clinton or help her escape scrutiny,” Beutler stated, “but that they resist the urge to normalize Trump by portraying both candidates as inhabiting similar moral and ethical planes.”

-- According to The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, the good news for Hillary is that she has some influence over how she’s covered (bolding added):

Most people think the press creates narratives, but generally speaking, it does not. It follows narratives set in place by political actors. The Clinton Foundation narrative, for example, is the creation of Judicial Watch and the Republicans who hop all over it whenever the group shoves out a press release. The Benghazi narrative was created by congressional Republicans and a few ex-military types. If people are willing to stand up there and say stuff, the press is going to report it. That’s what “news” is, and it’s why even lies can be “news.”

That’s how Trump barreled his way through the primary. He made news all the time. Of course he lied serially, but “objective” news reporting -- and this is a real crisis with no easy answers -- is ill-positioned to call a lie a lie…

People think the media is a big boulder. In fact, it’s a pile of clay. Candidates can shape it and prod it in their preferred direction to a surprising extent. Clinton just needs to get back out on the hustings and throw some punches.

-- Jeff Jarvis, formerly of TV Guide and People and now a Hillary-supporting journalism prof, wrote last week that he found himself “constantly aggravated” by campaign coverage and claimed that Hillary’s “faux scandals become tokens in journalists’ well-documented insistence on finding balance.”

He added, “The hunt for balance is especially cynical this year, as any attempt to give balanced coverage to an unbalanced candidate can only mislead…If journalism had informed and educated the American electorate, I am confident there would have been no room for Trump to spread his virus of ignorance, lies, and bigotry…Journalism is failing the nation. This election is the proof.”