Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Friendly Media Suggestion

While you may not have noticed it, most of the American political media on both the political left and the political right have had similar problems for most of a week. On the left, the handwringing has been about the polls and the first Presidential debate. On the right, the pearl-clutching has been about the very positive jobs numbers that came out last Friday.

We're hoping that after we dress down our colleagues today, they'll pull their heads out of their backsides, maybe even by this afternoon. Hopefully, our industry can then get back to the business of reporting real political news stories, on topics like mendacious politicians, movement on tax policies and the Federal budget, the upcoming Vice Presidential debate and more.

We realize part of the problem is one we touched on yesterday, the whorish corporate media culture in America. Talking about tax policies, budget priorities, and policy implementation is often not as sexy as political media wonks think it is. Ratings, clicks and readership levels all reflect the fact that plain facts and plain talk often don't interest as many people as souped-up stories about "the fiscal cliff" or "taxmageddon."

Still, we have our standards, and ethically, we can't just blow out substantive content for the cheap, sell-out, get-ratings-at-all-costs approach our colleagues in the pure entertainment field have. That method is one that far too many of the politicians we cover also use regularly.

For our friends in the left-leaning media, our commentary today is a message to you, much like the one Preisdent Obam got last week. It's time to put on your big-boy and big-girl pants, shut the hell up, and get back to work. While the polls are still all over the place, and our friends in the polling divisions are having their own issues, the facts are clear.

President Obama didn't have the kind of debate performance we expected or that he expected. No, he didn't lose. In an ethical society, you still can't lose a debate to someone that lied the way Mr. Romney did. But Obama also didn't win. More importantly, most in the left-leaning media got played by the hyper-rapid response by the GOP after the debate, just as multiple media watchers said we would.

As Kevin Drum noted again twice this week, part of the reason the left-leaning media can be "played" like that is the gap between the number of right-wing media hacks and their media outlets, and the number of media outlets on the left. Contrary to the cries of unfair criticism from those like Joan Walsh, it's clear that those who are trusted in the left-leaning media do have more power to affect outside events - like the post-debate spin - then their counterparts on the right.

We certainly aren't calling for more hacks on the left to match the number of ethically challenged media folks on the right. That said, there's a smaller pool on the left. When too many are encouraged to make a splash, it's not at all hard to start a tidal wave.

As for those we know in the right-leaning media, you also need to put on your collective big-kid pants and quit denying reality. No one 'cooked the books' on the September jobs numbers released last Friday. When the unemployment numbers made the President look bad, you were more than happy to believe the BLS. The jobs numbers were good in September not because someone cooked the books, but because the economy is, in fact, recovering. As some professional economists have been saying for some time now, the economic trend lines have predicted that the U.S. would finally recover from the Bush Recession at some point this year. That our current recovery is coming at a time that's incredibly inconvenient for your side politically shouldn't drive you to the insanity of denying reality.

Facts are stubborn things, as Ronald Reagan once said, and as Ezra Klein noted recently, the jobs report is about the economy, not the election.

It's time we all get back to work, people, on all sides of the media. Politicians are still selling themselves to the lowest common denominator, and voting day is less than four weeks away.

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