Earlier today, Howard Kurtz held his weekly chat where he covered such issues as Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews being dropped from election coverage on MSNBC; media coverage of Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin; and media bias in general and how it pertains to Bob Woodward and the Post. Some excerpts:
San Diego: Good morning, Howard. I have a question about MSNBC dropping Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann as anchors for upcoming big political events. I understand that the network has a lot of infighting (both on- and off-camera) but given the timing, how is this going to be seen as anything but caving to the McCain campaign, or at least to its more Republican/conservative corporate ownership? Also, as a matter of appearance, I get why it’s not great to have Olbermann anchoring; although he’s not as over-the-top in that role, his bias is clear. Matthews, on the other hand, practically gushes about both McCain and Obama. Why is he a problem?
Howard Kurtz: I have no evidence that MSNBC’s move is a caving in to the McCain campaign. There has been criticism for months (including from me) that opinionated talk show hosts could not be seen as fairly presiding over primary nights or conventions as neutral anchors. And there was a substantial push for a change from NBC News veterans who felt their reputation for fairness was being tarnished. Olbermann is the network’s preeminent liberal symbol, but he and Matthews were co-anchors, so if MS was going to make a change, it had to affect both of them.
Baltimore: Howard, on multiple occasions you have made statements similar to this one in your column today: “She began by showcasing her five children. She can hardly turn around and argue, then, that her family ought to be totally off-limits.” As if that’s justification for the maniacal mauling of her and her family by the media. Haven’t the Obama children been at the convention and in magazines? Aren’t they rightfully treated as off-limits? It seems a cheap shot to claim that because the Palin children appeared in public, they’re available for target practice. Should she have locked them in a closet and not let anyone see her family?
Howard Kurtz: If you read my column a little more closely, you’ll see that I’m quite critical of the media’s performance. The lead says she was “mauled, minimized and manhandled” by the media establishment. But it is an undeniable fact that Palin has not only trotted out her kids, but has made her role as a mother central to her political narrative. She can’t then expect only positive coverage of her family. That does not justify many of the cheap shots we’ve seen, as I’ve made clear, and this whole how-can-she-be-a-mom-and-run-for-VP debate seems to me to be something out of the distant past.
Washington: On Sunday, I woke to read excerpts from Bob Woodward’s latest book posted washingtonpost.com. Needless to say, Woodward is not very complimentary to Bush or his party. Then, continuing my browsing, I went to wsj.com and read an article with this excerpt: “According to Rasmussen, fully 68 percent of voters believe that ‘most reporters try to help the candidate they want to win.’ And — no surprise — 49 percent of those surveyed believe reporters are backing Barack Obama, while just 14 percent think the media is in the tank for Sen. McCain.”Meanwhile, 51 percent of those surveyed thought the press was ‘trying to hurt’ Mrs. Palin with its coverage. Perhaps most troubling for the press corps, though, was this finding: ’55 percent said media bias is a bigger problem for the electoral process than large campaign donations.’ ”
Would you like to take a shot at convincing me that posting Woodward’s latest anti-Republican polemic in the middle of the presidential campaign was “just coincidence” and not part of a campaign to help the Democrats in the election? I mean that sincerely, because right now I am finding myself on the majority side of those who view the mainstream media as being in the tank for Obama. I’m finding it hard to see where washingtonpost.com draws the line between op-ed and news. Thank you.
Howard Kurtz: Piece o’ cake. The Woodward excerpts were published, beginning yesterday, for a pretty fundamental reason: the book is being published this week. Other publicity for the book (such as a “60 Minutes” interview yesterday) have also gotten under way. Woodward may or may not have decided to bring out the book during the election season to have a greater impact, but The Post has no control over that. You might also remember that Woodward’s first book in this Bush-at-war series was quite positive for the president. That volume dealt with Afghanistan.
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