A well-timed release by the Center for Public Integrity, not just because it backs up Trump’s complaints about the media’s rooting interest in the outcome of the election but because conservatives on Twitter spent all last night laughing at this precious tweet by WaPo’s Chris Cillizza:
Let me say for the billionth time: Reporters don't root for a side. Period. https://t.co/dhH8eherOR
— Chris Cillizza (@ChrisCillizza) October 16, 2016
Reporters don’t root for a side, do they, CPI?
In all, people identified in federal campaign finance filings as journalists, reporters, news editors or television news anchors — as well as other donors known to be working in journalism — have combined to give more than $396,000 to the presidential campaigns of Clinton and Trump, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.
Nearly all of that money — more than 96 percent — has benefited Clinton: About 430 people who work in journalism have, through August, combined to give about $382,000 to the Democratic nominee, the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis indicates.
About 50 identifiable journalists have combined to give about $14,000 to Trump. (Talk radio ideologues, paid TV pundits and the like — think former Trump campaign manager-turned-CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski — are not included in the tally.)
Caveat: CPI didn’t find the names of many national news reporters, at least at major papers or magazines, in the lists of donors released by the two campaigns. There are local reporters, there are TV and restaurant critics, there are “former journalists,” and so on, but most people in a position to influence national coverage of the election had the good ass-covering sense to keep their wallets in their pockets and not provide a smoking-gun that they’re in the tank for Clinton in the form of a campaign contribution. Many papers, e.g., the New York Times, also have an in-house policy that prohibits donations by employees for fear that it, ahem, might create “a false impression that the paper is taking sides.” The significance of the data is the obvious inference to which it lends itself: If the proportion of media people who are permitted to donate to candidates is this lopsided, what reason is there to think the proportion of those who aren’t allowed to contribute is wildly different? Refraining from donating doesn’t mean you haven’t taken a side. It means you haven’t revealed the side you’ve taken.
Frankly, if papers are hot for transparency, I think it’d be a fine idea for each of them to earmark five dollars per employee and then ask each staffer to name which candidate he/she would like to receive the fiver. (You can send mine to Evan McMullin.) Make plain your rooting interest! Even if 90 percent of the Times and Washington Post mastheads earmarked their money for Clinton, all it would do is confirm a “fact” conservatives have long believed anyway. Heck, if even 10 percent went for Trump, some righties might conclude that the newsroom is actually slightly more ideologically diverse than thought. But that system would be easy to game: Inevitably plenty of Clintonite reporters would earmark their donations for Trump, precisely so that they could point to it later when they’re accused of Democratic bias in their coverage and say, “Whaddaya mean? I donated to Trump!” It’d be the cheapest possible way to buy fake objectivity. If you want to know which way reporters are leaning, the best thing to do is to weaken the ethical prohibitions that bar them from donating in the first place. Get the Times to repeal their policy and let the most hardcore liberals enjoy their checkbook free-speech rights as fully as the rest of us. Some would still steer clear, but some wouldn’t. Every one who chips in helps undermine the silly, antiquated guild ethic of fake neutrality that no one really believes to begin with.