Commentary Magazine


Topic: Project

Shocked, Shocked the Media Missed the Story

Howard Kurtz observes that, once again, the mainstream media was stunned by a story they never saw coming. They never saw the Scott Brown wave building, he writes:

The mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley’s big lead in the polls and Massachusetts’s reputation as the bluest of blue states.

“The national press, and frankly to some extent the local press, were taken by surprise,” says Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Globe’s former media reporter. “The failure here was not to pick up on what was going on out there in the ether. A lot of journalists didn’t know who Scott Brown was or failed to take him seriously because he was a Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” says Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

One can understand that at the onset, the race seemed like a slam dunk for the Democrats. Martha Coakley was up 30 points in the polls. But as weeks passed and polls shifted, the mainstream media continued to snooze. The imbalance in crowd size and enthusiasm was evident, yet the media narrative didn’t change. Martha Coakley’s gaffes mounted, but the MSM plodded along. Conservative outlets and analysts who predicted a Brown win or even a close vote were derided as hopelessly out of touch.

This is nothing new. The mainstream media are usually surprised by stories unfavorable to the liberal narrative. For months in late 2007 and early 2008, they feigned ignorance of the Iraq surge’s success, until candidate Barack Obama visited and there was a mad scramble to catch up to the story. The New York Times ignored the Reverend Wright story for weeks during the campaign. The Van Jones story also caught the liberal media unaware. The ACORN scandal did too. And the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial GOP victories seemed to come out of nowhere — but these could then be ignored, they hastened to add, since they weren’t reflective of any national trend (until Scott Brown made it a trifecta). Then the tea party protest movement was ignored or mocked, as were the town hall protests. Notice how the ignored stories all share a common characteristic: bad news for the Left.

The media never seem to learn or improve. The pattern repeats because this is inevitably what comes from discounting facts adverse to one side and minimizing grassroots activism on the Right. When you deride and name-call citizen activists, you wind up missing entire political movements.

The media’s “slice of reality” coverage, of course, only reinforces the predilection of this White House to ignore bad news. It’s not real news, after all, if it’s on Fox. Rasmussen isn’t a real pollster. Gallup is like a 6-year-old with a crayon. And then you wake up only to find that the president’s approval is below 50 percent, the filibuster-proof Senate is no more, ObamaCare is comatose, and the Right has forged an alliance between independents, populists, and  mainstream conservatives. Funny how that happens when you’re pretending not to notice the tea party protests outside your window or are attempting to delegitimize one of the few new outlets actually covering all this news you’d rather forget.

Howard Kurtz observes that, once again, the mainstream media was stunned by a story they never saw coming. They never saw the Scott Brown wave building, he writes:

The mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley’s big lead in the polls and Massachusetts’s reputation as the bluest of blue states.

“The national press, and frankly to some extent the local press, were taken by surprise,” says Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Globe’s former media reporter. “The failure here was not to pick up on what was going on out there in the ether. A lot of journalists didn’t know who Scott Brown was or failed to take him seriously because he was a Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” says Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

One can understand that at the onset, the race seemed like a slam dunk for the Democrats. Martha Coakley was up 30 points in the polls. But as weeks passed and polls shifted, the mainstream media continued to snooze. The imbalance in crowd size and enthusiasm was evident, yet the media narrative didn’t change. Martha Coakley’s gaffes mounted, but the MSM plodded along. Conservative outlets and analysts who predicted a Brown win or even a close vote were derided as hopelessly out of touch.

This is nothing new. The mainstream media are usually surprised by stories unfavorable to the liberal narrative. For months in late 2007 and early 2008, they feigned ignorance of the Iraq surge’s success, until candidate Barack Obama visited and there was a mad scramble to catch up to the story. The New York Times ignored the Reverend Wright story for weeks during the campaign. The Van Jones story also caught the liberal media unaware. The ACORN scandal did too. And the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial GOP victories seemed to come out of nowhere — but these could then be ignored, they hastened to add, since they weren’t reflective of any national trend (until Scott Brown made it a trifecta). Then the tea party protest movement was ignored or mocked, as were the town hall protests. Notice how the ignored stories all share a common characteristic: bad news for the Left.

The media never seem to learn or improve. The pattern repeats because this is inevitably what comes from discounting facts adverse to one side and minimizing grassroots activism on the Right. When you deride and name-call citizen activists, you wind up missing entire political movements.

The media’s “slice of reality” coverage, of course, only reinforces the predilection of this White House to ignore bad news. It’s not real news, after all, if it’s on Fox. Rasmussen isn’t a real pollster. Gallup is like a 6-year-old with a crayon. And then you wake up only to find that the president’s approval is below 50 percent, the filibuster-proof Senate is no more, ObamaCare is comatose, and the Right has forged an alliance between independents, populists, and  mainstream conservatives. Funny how that happens when you’re pretending not to notice the tea party protests outside your window or are attempting to delegitimize one of the few new outlets actually covering all this news you’d rather forget.

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