A couple of weeks ago, Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander wrote that he thought the newspaper was tone deaf to conservatism. He cited both the ACORN story about the prostitution imposters and the firing of Van Jones after allegations that he once thought Bush knew in advance of the 9/11 attacks. Alexander said The Post ignored the stories for too long.
One explanation may be that traditional news outlets like The Post simply don’t pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints.
It "can’t be discounted," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Complaints by conservatives are slower to be picked up by non-ideological media because there are not enough conservatives and too many liberals in most newsrooms."
"They just don’t see the resonance of these issues. They don’t hear about them as fast [and] they’re not naturally watching as much," he added.
Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said he worries "that we are not well-enough informed about conservative issues. It’s particularly a problem in a town so dominated by Democrats and the Democratic point of view."
To guard against it, he said, "I challenge our reporters and editors with great frequency to look at what is going on across the political spectrum . . . at the extremes, among the rabble-rousers, as well as among policymakers." He said he pressed the National desk this week to provide more ACORN coverage.
Conservatives are getting their payoff from Brauchli. Today we have two stories, one about the labor union SEIC. The planned attacks on SEIC were discussed last week on the Rachel Maddow show.
Now, both SEIU and ACORN – they find themselves under attack, both from Republicans, as we documented on last night‘s show, painted a bull‘s-eye on ACORN as soon as ACORN started registering large numbers of likely Democratic voters and from corporate interests who aren‘t crazy about things like minimum wage hikes, corporate interest that‘s gin up suspicions of groups they don‘t like by funding PR efforts to destroy those groups, PR efforts run by guys like Rick Berman, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist who we talked about on this show before.
Brauchli, perhaps afraid as are many journalists of being accused of being liberally biased, assigned a reporter to follow the SEIC story, no matter how thin it might be.
But at least you could make an argument that there was some news value there. The Style section has a front page story and big photo about Orly Taitz, the woman obsessed with proving Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii. The photo shows her as a dentist, giving her argument a patina of credibility. It’s one thing to make the right wing echo machine your assignment editor; it’s quite another to give legitimacy to an issue with no credibility. The Post expended nearly 2,500 words on this discredited woman.
It’s little wonder that The Post is going under. Its top editors are cowards. Perhaps they should heed the advice of one judge who had to deal with a frivolous lawsuit she brought before his court.
In September, U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land dismissed a Georgia case that Taitz brought on behalf of a military doctor, Connie Rhodes, which held that Rhodes should be spared deployment to Iraq because Obama is not constitutionally qualified to be commander in chief. More than just rejecting it, he excoriated it.
"Unlike in Alice in Wonderland, simply saying something is so does not make it so," Land wrote scathingly in his order dismissing the action. Singling out Taitz for criticism, he accused her of using the legal system to further a political agenda.
But no, Brauchli and his malleable ilk will continue to prostrate themselves to the echo machine.
The doubters have put themselves on the public’s radar. Eight in 10 Americans in a July Pew poll said that they had heard "a lot" or "a little" about the contention that Obama was not born in the United States and is ineligible for the presidency.
Hearing relentlessly about a charge, even if it’s been disproven, is enough for some in the media to reverberate it. They also must bear some responsibility for what they enable.
At a minimum, organizations who monitor extremist groups say that the fantasy of Obama’s ineligibility is now a central tenet. "The birther conspiracy itself is now totally widespread among military and paramilitary [militia] groups and new, what we would call quote-unquote ‘patriot’ groups, which are groups that are virulently anti-government," says Heidi Beirich, director of research at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In oh so many ways, Brauchli played right into her hands.
And although she criticizes the mainstream media, she calls after the interview to see when this article will run. So she can flag it on her Web site.