When A President Criticizes The Press: Is Anyone Listening?
By Danny Schechter
New York, New York: There is one subject that most politicians avoid: talking about the media. Most spend most of their time positioning themselves for media attention because most seem to need and rely on media visibility.
The media provides their political oxygen and, hence, explains why they spend so much time spinning their words with hired press secretaries, advisors and consultants.
In many ways, being on the air validates their role if not their existence. . Hence, many are always scrambling to be interviewed for TV news and on Sunday shows. Media visibility is a key tool in the permanent campaigns most pols run for their reelections and to move up the political ladder.
Much of the money they spend so much time raising goes right back into the media for commercials.
As a result, they usually don't discuss their experiences or opinions perhaps out of fear of antagonizing media outlets by suggesting that they don't operate responsibly. As is, most fear media retaliation if they step out of line or say "the wrong thing."
President Obama has become the latest politician to put his toe in the raging waters of the media debate, with some mild observations about the powerful role that media outlets play in reporting---and often distorting--political events.
In an interview with the New Republic, he stated the obvious: "One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it."
"The same dynamic happens on the Democratic side," he said. "I think the difference is just that the more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word. And I think at least leaders like myself--and I include Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in this--are willing to buck the more absolutist-wing elements in our party to try to get stuff done."
Obama also criticized nonpartisan media outlets for their adherence to "journalism, which places equal blame on Democrats and Republicans when, according to the president, Republicans should bear more blame."
Dylan Beyers of Politico notes that all media does not have an equal impact and "that right-wing media, especially Fox and Limbaugh, have an outsized influence on Republicans -- and are arguably more powerful than most members of congress."
"[T]hat's one of the biggest problems we've got in how folks report about Washington right now, because I think journalists rightly value the appearance of impartiality and objectivity," Obama observed.
"And so the default position for reporting is to say, 'A plague on both their houses.' On almost every issue, it's, 'Well, Democrats and Republicans can't agree'--as opposed to looking at why is it that they can't agree. Who exactly is preventing us from agreeing?"
He faults what he saw as an obsession with confrontation that contributes to the stalemate we see on the hill.
"Some of [the institutional barriers] have to do with our media and what gets attention," he said. "Nobody gets on TV saying, 'I agree with my colleague from the other party.' People get on TV for calling each other names and saying the most outlandish things."
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