Politicians’ questionable relationship with journalists is nothing particularly new.
In fact the newspaper wars of the 1790s would put to shame any partisan politicking by today’s purported journalists, and could compete with the trollish behavior found on your average internet comment section.
If Thomas Jefferson is elected as President, one federalist mouthpiece warned, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation’s black with crimes.”
Not to be outdone, a publication allied with Jefferson, argued that Adams was a “repulsive pedant” and “gross hypocrite” who “possessed a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
Newspapers weren’t just partisan, they were actually formed or bought by candidates for office and their writers recruited with promises of patronage. The times, of course, have changed. There is at least a veneer of neutrality, a degree of removal, however small, between the reporters and reported-on. But if the WikiLeaks emails have shown us anything, it is just how willing the press is to put its thumb on the scale of elections in favor of their preferred candidate. Roger Simon writes for PJ Media:
Most evident from their downloads is the unremitting, almost incestual, alliance between elites (read: Democratic Party leadership) and the press, those who are informing us of what we are supposed to think. The myriad emails between New York Times reporter and CNBC anchor John Harwood and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta would approach the risible were they not so disturbing by implication. Presidential debate moderator Harwood, putatively a journalist, actually acts as an advisor to Podesta in them, warning the campaign manager of the dangers of a potential Ben Carson candidacy and even bragging to him about having tripped up Donald Trump at a debate.
The leaks showed the New York Times telling Hillary Clinton that she “could veto what [she] doesn’t want” to make it into the personal profile of the candidate. They show Donna Brazile, who was a CNN contributor before becoming the head of the Democratic National Committee, tipping the Clinton campaign off about a question she would receive at a time hall. They show Haim Saban, the chairman of Univision, advising the Clinton campaign on how to undermine Trump’s support with Hispanic voters. They showed the Boston Globe working with the campaign on the timing of an op-ed to get the maximum effect given the news stories the paper was set to run. And they showed a Politico reporter sending a story to the Clinton campaign to make sure they’re okay with the piece.
“Because I have become a hack,” the Politico reporter writes, “I will send u the whole section that pertains to us. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this.”
The results of this cozy relationship are plain to see. Media reporter Joe Concha reports for The Hill:
Quick review: The broadcast evening news programs on ABC, NBC and CBS covered allegations against Trump by several women who claim he sexually assaulted them for more than 23 minutes combined on Thursday night.
But revelations in the WikiLeaks email dump of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta — which included derogatory comments by senior campaign officials about Catholics, Latinos and the NAACP, sympathy for Wall Street, advocation for open borders and blatant examples of media collusion with said campaign — got a whole 1 minute and 7 seconds combined.
Ratio of negative coverage of Trump vs. Clinton: 23:1.
In print on Thursday, it was no better. The New York Times — known as the paper of record — had 11 negative stories on Trump, including one in the sports section. But zero on Clinton/WikiLeaks.
“Journalism – it was nice knowing ya,” Concha concludes.
But perhaps we shouldn’t be so willing to simply wave goodbye to The Fourth Estate. They have an incredibly important role to play, one that asks the tough questions, shines a spotlight on the dark places, and uncovers questionable behavior. If they would only perform that role on themselves once in a while, we would all be better for it.