Obama’s first year & the media’s spin


I know, I wont be the only one writing about this. Much like year-end and decade-end lists, these types of posts and tv features will nauseate you even if you voted for him and support him. The media does know how to use every ounce of a meme!

However, I’ve also noticed a definite trend in the spin on this one already so when Rachel Maddow highlighted a few things that people don’t seem to talk about, I had to find the source.

The full article is here.

Mr. Weisberg opens with some examples of exactly what I have seen and heard. “But what has he even done?! he’s done nothing!”

See, the problem is that what he has done is not sexy enough. And true, not tangible enough for someone only looking at the surface to detect. *Stopping* a depression is pretty fantastic – but no one notices because we are still in an economic recession with high unemployment. Yet, the stimulus & economic recovery acts must have done something because, unemployment is certainly not as bad as it seemed like it could be. Check it out from this perspective:

Credit to Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly magazine for giving us the gift of the Bikini Graph 🙂 Pretty clearly shows how much the job losses have slowed under Obama. But hey, he hasn’t done anything, right?

I don’t blame you for thinking he hasn’t – after all, the media isn’t really covering it that way. It’s like they cannot *possibly* tell you about something good he may have done. Certainly not without also giving you The Other Side of the story. Can’t have a report on any action without hearing what the GOP thinks about it – which is sure to be negative. When health care is passed & signed – which it will be – it will become the single greatest domestic achievement since the creation of Social Security. It’s a mountain that every Democratic President before him has tried, and failed, to climb. But it WILL happen this year. And you can bet that the coverage will be largely focused on those who don’t like it. Just watch – while the lead in might be a shout out to what a triumph it is, the bulk of the reporting will be about the opposing voices.

Why is that ? Are they partisan? That seems to be the easy answer, but after a year of following a few of the beltway reporters really closely on Twitter & reading their articles, I think it’s something else.

As the folks running newsrooms transitioned over the years from “gotta get the story right and tell it straight” to “Gotta generate ratings and earn money, accuracy be damned”, and with the advent of the 24 hour cable news stations, it was not so much about political leaning as just making sure you were being heard/watched. The old “if it bleeds, it leads” mantra. Well, this was all coming up during Clinton’s Presidency and, well, the Big Dawg did a pretty good job of making sure he provided some rather salacious headlines 😉 So, right or left, no one could really bark too much about media vilification. Was it there? Oh sure, it’s been well documented that the Right Wing noise machine hit it’s zenith with Clinton. But forget the partisan reporters. Just the regular old insiders in the biz working for networks without any obvious agenda also were having some fun with Old Bill. Then Bush was elected and the loudest voices, the one with the most power in the media at that moment, were Fox news and talk radio. Coming at you from the right and leading the stories. Sadly, the DC wonks just rather quietly went along. Bush was not hounded or questioned very much by anyone. Certainly not in his first term. It was like the press corps had a Clinton hangover or something because there sure WERE things for them to question – but they were silent.

But the rise of the internet changed all that. Jon Stewart’s show (which started out during Clinton’s final years) exploded – why? Because they were picking on the timid media. Exposing them for being the lapdogs they had become. Again, I don’t really think this was ideology – I think it was just the general complacency they had all let set in. But something I’ve learned from following a few guys is that they are VERY isolated. When people talk about  “Conventional Wisdom (CW)” and the “Beltway Bubble” they are not joking. So many times their initial spin or opinion on a story is just so Out There to me! But it’s like they have to follow some kind of Washington DC code book: If  a) happens then react with b) in ALL situations!

They had a bit of a wake up call when they joined Twitter and started getting actual, real people, out of the beltway instant feedback. It’s been funny watching them squirm over some of our reactions! I also think they really do care about that. I think they WANT to really BE fair, not just make an appearance of it. They heard about people dismissing them for their kid gloves treatment of Bush. They read all the stuff about the media love affair with Obama during 2008. So they were not ABOUT to repeat those mistakes his first year. Having now listened to or read transcripts of way more Presidential Daily Briefings than I ever thought I would, I think they have done a very good job of harassing Robert Gibbs. Of course some of my die hard lefty friends will say they have been TOO hard, and those on the right think unless you are impeaching a Dem President that you are being too easy 🙂 But I really do think, on balance – they have been balanced.

Certainly there are no former stripper turned planted ‘journalists’ in that Press Room (See Gannon, Jeff)!

I think the media is simply really trying hard to NOT sing Obama’s praises so they kind of knee jerk the other way. Plus, singing his praises only got them ratings during the election & inauguration. After that people wanted controversy! So they went right back to ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ looking for drama whether it was there or not.

Here’s a classic example – during the winter break, two Democratic Senators announced they would not seek re-election. That brings the total Democratic retirements to 10 house members & 2 senators. What was the Beltway Media Spin?  “Democrats dropping like flies!” and various versions of the same. No, this was not Fox News specific, not by a LONG shot! In fact, Chuck Todd from MSNBC was, to me, the worst with his over-reaction to the announcements and his spin on what a “disaster” this was for the Democrats. I like Chuck on the whole. Like Jake Tapper & find him to be very very straight up the middle, no spin to a particular ideology – BUT – what I also see in SPADES in Chuck Todd is a tremendous case of the Beltway Bubble. He sees *everything* through that way too isolated prism of DC. And again – he loves himself the drama! What made all those claims so ridiculous of course, was reality. (Darn that reality getting in the way of all the fun!) True accountant that I am, how about some black & white numbers eh?

Democrats – retiring 10 of 257 house seats = 4%; retiring 2 of 58 senate seats = 3%

Republicans – retiring 14 of 178 house seats = 8%; retiring 6 of 40 senate seats = 15%

Look at that math! It does not lie! The Democrats Republicans are dropping like flies!!!

Or err…something 🙂 In reality this is all within the normal rate of drop outs in a 1st term mid-term election year. Actually, it’s still low for BOTH sides. Nobody is in bailout mode. These are completely normal retirements. Sheesh.

Oh, another Republican house member announced his retirement yesterday. Any mention of the GOP running for the hills? Not. A. Peep.

Again – I don’t think this is partisan spin – I think it is simply spin for the purpose of creating drama and therefore, story lines that they can justify  following 24/7. To steal one of Chuck Todd’s own lines – it is cable catnip 🙂

Democrats are the party in power, so the media will look for ways to deflate it because the last time the other party was in power, they *didn’t* and they were vilified & exposed for it. IOW – in some ways, it’s GOOD that they are being so quick to criticize because that IS their job…but…I think now they should start paying attention to the *validity* of  their spin. Knee jerk reaction is over now guys. We are still watching you & yes, we will still tell you when you are being ridiculous. Trust me – you all are giving Jon Stewart just boat loads of material for the Daily Show & he is only too happy to use it!

So that was a long winded, rambling way of saying…hey, I think Obama has done pretty darn well his first year! I think he HAS done a lot. Yes, some of it is thus far intangible, but it’s there. I also sense the gloves coming off this year. The White House has already been very quick to push back on some pretty ridiculous opposition claims since the new year. I know the media was having oh so much fun proclaiming The Honeymoon is Over! this summer in regards to their own treatment of Obama, but I think they better watch out. I think THEIR own honeymoon is over and that the Obama admin is feeling they are getting the hang of the way things work  with them and they are going to get pushed back more and more.

Personally, I don’t care if the media is Fair and *balanced*…I want them to be Fair and Thorough. Fair & Correct. Something they have not necessarily been in combination for a very long time.

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