Media Bias and Candidate Bashing

By Sperling, Godfrey | The Christian Science Monitor, September 15, 1992 | Go to article overview
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Media Bias and Candidate Bashing

Sperling, Godfrey, The Christian Science Monitor

THERE others see press bias in presidential-race coverage I often see something else: What I call the "piling-on" tendency.

Sure, the media is piling on George Bush these days. Almost with glee they report the latest Bush negative. Each indication of the sluggish economy is portrayed as the president's fault. And he's being thoroughly bashed for tardiness in responding to Hurricane Andrew even though there is strong evidence that he reacted rather quickly, certainly as soon as he was called upon to do so by the Florida governor.

It's no secret that journalists covering presidential campaigns are mostly Democrats and liberals. This has been true for years, since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Studies that have confirmed this have also showed that Republican newspaper publishers outnumbered those with Democratic leanings. But no one has claimed that the TV networks are controlled by those with GOP or conservative points of view.

But my contention - from years of mingling with political reporters - is that most of them, particularly those who are selected to cover presidential candidates, are not only among the best and brightest in their newspaper's stable, but they lean over backward to try to guard against letting their convictions shape their stories. In my opinion, most seek to write impeccably honest accounts of what is going on.

Only shortly before the New York convention, Bill Clinton was getting the same kind of treatment in the press that the president is receiving today. He could do nothing right. He was almost destroyed by what might be called a kind of media feeding frenzy.

I see this as the "piling-on" tendency - and the press pile on a candidate who is in trouble whether he's a Republican or a Democrat. They jumped all over George McGovern in 1972, even though his feelings against the Vietnam War reflected those of most of the reporters who were writing about him. And they jumped all over Michael Dukakis, again almost with glee, when he began to falter after holding a commanding lead over Bush at convention time.

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