A Pew survey came out last week showing that conservatives don’t trust many media outlets. And newspapers and magazines that are presented as ideologically neutral skew far to the left in terms of their actual audience. People joke about MSNBC being liberal but its audience, at least, is more conservative than those of NPR, the New York Times, Washington Post, The Economist, Politico and the New Yorker. But even the supposedly moderate media outlets such as CBS have serious problems with covering politics in anything approaching a neutral fashion.
This week Republicans gained seats in the House and took over the Senate. They took governorships and state legislatures. It was decisive. Among the winning candidates are the youngest female ever elected to office, the first black Republican woman elected to the House (also the first Haitian American to serve in Congress), the first female Senator from West Virginia and the first female Senator from Iowa. A Jewish Republican from New York defeated his opponent by 10 points and an openly gay Republican is in a neck-and-neck race to represent a California district. You have a markedly young incoming group of Senators, including 37-year-old Tom Cotton of Arkansas and 40-year-old Cory Gardner of Colorado. Sen. Tim Scott was elected the South’s first black Senator. Defeats suffered by the Democrats included media darling Wendy Davis, who rose to fame filibustering a ban on late-term abortions, birth control activist Sandra Fluke and Sen. Mark Udall, so obsessed with “War on Women” messaging that he was dubbed Mark Uterus.
None of this comports with the normal storyline pushed by reporters of a tired, old group of reactionary males losing to fresh-faced Democratic women with great ideas about birth control and abortion. But rather than go with that storyline, some have trouble getting out of the old rut.
Still, I was stunned to read the transcript of a CBS News report from Nancy Cordes. Here’s how she characterized the incoming class:
You have a new crop of conservatives coming into the House who have suggested, among other thing, that women need to submit to the authority of their husbands, that Hillary Clinton is the anti-Christ, and some of them don’t think you’re conservative enough.
Oh come on. Come on! Seriously? Doesn’t this get tiring? It reads like a Daily Kos blogpost from a junior member and not like what you might expect from someone attempting to be taken seriously. If your brand of journalism involves treating the Christian view of submission as something radical, taking random quotes out of context or otherwise elevating them beyond a normal reading and breaking the news that outside of newsrooms, not everyone thinks John Boehner is far-right, count me out.
It actually gets worse. Cordes claims that Virginia’s Barbara Comstock is on the “far right” and said undocumented immigrants should be tracked like FedEx packages. I joked earlier about how Cordes’ summary of the incoming class read like a Daily Kos blogger but this claim about Comstock, though untrue, is precisely how a Daily Kos blogger named “Hunter” put it. Hunter said, “Barbara Comstock demands we track immigrants like FedEx tracks packages.” That was in turn taken from a ThinkProgress blog of similar journalistic integrity, which said that Comstock said the “Government Should Track Immigrants Like FedEx Tracks Packages.”
In fact, Comstock said:
“I think immigration should be done by legislation, not executive action. I think first and foremost, we need to stop playing politics with this and secure the borders,” Comstock said at the debate against Democratic challenger John Foust. “Fedex can track packages coming in here all the time; we can track people who are coming into the country. And we can do that right.”
You are more than welcome to disagree with these political views, and certainly most people inhabiting American newsrooms do, but if you’re copying the journalistic stylings of radical leftist bloggers for the sole purpose of making mainstream views and the candidates who hold them seem extreme, you’re doing it wrong.
It would be one thing if journalists framed their questions around both left wing and right wing blogs, but that never happens. You frequently don’t even see mildly tough questions of candidates and politicians whose views on immigration, abortion, the bureaucracy and foreign policy are more closely aligned to the views represented in most newsrooms.
Enough. If Cordes wants to sound like a blogger from Daily Kos, she should go to the Daily Kos. But CBS should think long and hard about having a newsroom built around actual news reporting and known less for being the longtime home of Dan Rather, who was involved in manufacturing stories against a Republican president, and for hostility to reporters who investigate Democrats as well as Republicans, such as Sharyl Attkisson.