Frank Bruni has a media navel gazing editorial out today in the Gray Lady where he kicks around the question of why people seem to be complaining so much about campaign coverage in the national media. He cites a few examples (in what seems to be a rather sarcastic way) which include Hillary supporters claiming that she gets unfair treatment. (I’ll pause here for a moment and give everyone a chance to regain their composure.)
After mentioning that Chris Christie doesn’t think much of the press squad, Frank gets down to the issue of the day… Scott Walker.
Scott Walker thinks we’re laying an elaborate trap for him, and after The Washington Post inquired if he regarded President Obama as Christian, he not only punted but also bellowed about “gotcha” questions, griping: “This is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press.”
Dislike? Increasingly? Either he was being charitable or he hasn’t read the polling. The public’s esteem for us has been abysmal for a good long while.
And if we’re honest, we’ve brought much of it on ourselves. We play petty games and barrel down pointless roads.
There are bad habits we should surrender not merely for Lent but forever, and there are tweaks we’d be wise to implement as we move forward with the 2016 election.
With that, Bruni launches into three (!) things which he thinks the political media is getting wrong and how they can go about doing a better job. Oddly enough, he starts with a mandate to Stop hyping Iowa and New Hampshire. From a purely political theory perspective, I’d have to agree and have written about this at length. Iowa and New Hampshire punch so far above their weight class that it’s absurd. But the fact is, that’s not why people hate the mainstream press.
His second suggested reform is to Go easy on the spouses. Again, I suppose the places where this occurs are not the most shining moments for reporters, but does anyone honestly think that’s the worm at the core of this rotten apple? Tagging the spouses of candidates may not be pretty, but it’s hardly a driver of this discussion.
Finally the column gets down to what I was hoping would be the meat and potatoes of this subject… when will you stop trying to tear down any perceived GOP frontrunner in an effort to help Democrats? Sadly, we are left with a mostly empty stew bowl.
Don’t buy tickets to circus acts. When someone on the fringes of both the race and serious discourse says something clownish that’s a cry to be noticed, ignore it. This means quitting our addiction to Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani, no matter how good they are for readership, ratings and belly laughs.
We are too often like the parents who attend only to the screeching 3-year-old, plying him with Gummi bears and Goldfish crackers, which simply reward and ratchet up his screams. Meanwhile the virtuous, unexcitable older sibling is ignored, until she wins the Michigan primary and leaves us no choice but a grudging, belated magazine cover.
Was that was meant to be some sort of advice to stop demanding that every GOP candidate take responsibility for each syllable uttered by anyone around the world who can be remotely tied to the party or the conservative movement? If so, it was fairly weak tea. A better way to put it would have been to say… well, essentially what I wrote in the first sentence of this paragraph. And that’s really a far cry from berating yourself for becoming distracted by the crazy people. But since he invoked the name, perhaps Frank could specifically advise his colleagues to stop trying to create mountains out of deviously spun molehills and, failing to find one of those, making things up out of whole cloth. That might actually buy back some reader trust and loyalty.
I won’t write off Bruni’s musings here entirely, though. If nothing else, we have somebody taking to the pages of the New York Times and at least acknowledging that people are disgusted with your campaign coverage. And that’s marginally better than nothing.