Hey’s it’s great to see one of America’s leading newspapers put precious resources into deep research of a high-ranking public official. After all, the media styles itself as a check on public policy and power, and as a means to make transparent those who seek to control both. When a person runs for President, why shouldn’t we get a look at his college writings and positions? Good for the Washington Post to belatedly assign a reporter to get that data from Barack Obama’s university —
Oh, wait. They’re not assigning a reporter to look at that? Well, maybe they’re sending the reporter to do research through the Clinton library papers — er, no, not that either. So whose college writings are they investigating?
Five days after Elizabeth Lauten published a Facebook post criticizing the outfits worn by President Barack Obama’s daughters, the previously obscure Republican Hill staffer is being inundated with threatening messages and major media outlets are pouring resources into tracking her moves and digging into her past.
Two network news vans camped outside of Lauten’s parents home in North Carolina on Tuesday, one day after she resigned as communication director for Rep. Steven Fincher (R., Tenn.) due to the controversy. Lauten was not at the house.
That morning, the Washington Post also assigned one of its foreign affairs correspondents to comb through an archive of columns Lauten wrote for her college newspaper in 2006 and 2007. The investigation found that Lauten had supported intervention in Darfur, criticized Facebook as an invasion of privacy, and warned people against “making race an issue.”
Dave Reaboi and Dave Weigel probably put it best:
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) December 2, 2014
This reminds me of the media flooding into Wasilla in September 2008 after disdaining any number of attempts by Chicago journalists to engage the national media on the inaccuracies of the Obama “I’m A Reformer” narrative (a story which continues to unfold). At least Sarah Palin was actually running for national office at the time, although on the bottom half of the ticket rather than at the top. Elizabeth Lauten worked as a communications director for a House backbencher from Tennessee, until recently at least. Yet she (and her parents) are getting more scrutiny about her college days than Obama ever did when running for President. Twice.
It’s not just the Washington Post either, but you already knew that. Broadcast networks have now given Lauten’s rude Facebook post much more coverage than the ObamaCare architect who spent years bragging about how he helped Democrats lie to pass the bill:
NBC’s Today and Nightly News gave the Lauten story 6 minutes 13 seconds, nearly three times what they gave to the Gruber story (2 minutes 23 seconds). ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight offered 2 minutes 37 seconds, double the 1 minute 6 seconds they allocated to the Gruber video.
CBS This Morning and Evening News featured 5 minutes 23 seconds of Lauten coverage. After the Gruber video went viral on November 10, it took CBS four days to get to the story, with a full report on the November 13 This Morning and another full report on Evening News that night, totaling a combined 4 minutes 39 seconds.
NBC didn’t notice Gruber’s offensive comments until November 17, with a report on Today. NBC Nightly News has yet to mention Jonathan Gruber.
ABC didn’t cover Gruber until November 18, with a report on World News Tonight. Good Morning America has ignored the story.
Amazingly, NBC, ABC, and CBS gave Lauten approximately 70% more coverage than Gruber.
Ah, the media … speaking truth to power! I wonder when the Post will send a reporter to do what Alana Goodman has been doing for months in the Clinton Library, or do they only care about the past when it comes to Republican women?
Update: Mollie Hemingway has a must read at The Federalist:
Republican media operative Rick Wilson went on a beautiful rant last night about this embarrassing Lauten debacle. You can read the whole thing here. This is edited down but he wrote, “Reporters and media folks wondering, ‘Why don’t people trust us?’… The last couple weeks should be clarifying for you… But the endless, agenda-driven games are repellent to readers/viewers. Your sins are of omission and commission both… You used to be able to claim news judgement and ignore stories you hated. You still do, but now people see it, and you loathe it… So you’ll do one piece on Gruber, then pretend you dug in hard. But god forbid a staffer dings the Obama kids. Then you flood the zone… You pick and choose when to provide context… I love pros in the business. Love them. And most of you ARE pros. Most of you DO work stories, look for interesting angles… But you tolerate (and your editors tolerate) a lot of outrageous, absurdly bad practices. Gruber? Unforgivable… the frustration Americans feel about media isn’t getting any less acute, and some introspection might go a long way…”
Indeed it would. There are some tenacious and wonderful reporters. But the overall picture in many newsrooms is getting worse. Under no circumstances should scarce newsroom resources be diverted from real stories onto fake ones that have already been covered more than a Beatles hit.
There is a huge liberal bias problem in the media (fun recent graph related to the problem here). Pretending it’s not there is not going to make it go away. But pointing out the problems year after year isn’t making things better. Some of the media behavior post-election seems more like a toddler temper tantrum than a dispassionate news judgment.
Maybe Baron and his peers can attempt to defend what they did with this story. I would love to hear what they have to say. But if they wonder why journalists continue to be among the least trusted professions, a bit of introspection is in order.