I don’t think those kind of “gotcha” questions are appropriate unless the person being asked has made hypocritical attacks on others. But since “gotcha” questions are an inevitable part of the political season, it’s time for the media to spread the discomfort around. Journalists should at least mitigate the double standard that Stephanopoulos identified today on ABC’s This Week.
Media watchers often say that the real bias in the profession isn’t in how a story is covered, but in which stories the media chooses to focus on and which they ignore or actively suppress. Here it’s certainly true that until his popularity took a tumble, President Obama was the beneficiary of enormous media affection. During his first term, the Los Angeles Times noted that “TV’s leading political humorists have largely backed away from their ritual comic hazing of the president.”
The media’s role in tilting the news coverage before he was elected was even more pronounced. Just before the 2008 election, Mark Halperin, co-author of the campaign tell-all Game Change and now a Bloomberg TV host, was asked at a conference if the media had been too soft on Obama. He answered yes, and went on to say that through the subtle choice of which stories to cover and where to deploy investigative resources, the national media had handed Obama “hundreds of millions in free publicity.”