"This Washington Post piece is worthy of some love," said a friend who sent me the link.
"By all means, grab it," said GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly when I shared it with our team.
Both my friend and tmatt recognized that this story is likely to resonate with GetReligion readers, even if it doesn't have a direct religion angle.
I'm talking about the Post's Style section feature this week on #Biased political reporters who don't hold back their true feelings (read: negative feelings) about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump:
The Post's lede:
News reporters are supposed to keep their opinions out of the stories they write and air. Twitter, it seems, is another realm entirely.
With the political campaigns staggering into their final days, mainstream reporters otherwise obligated to objectivity — or at least a reasonably balanced, non-argumentative account of events — have taken to Twitter to unburden themselves of their apparently true feelings about the race.
The primary target of their derision and general snark: Donald Trump.
Trump was “really just asking for it with this venue,” tweeted New York Times political reporter Alex Burns the other day, when Trump gave a speech in Gettysburg, Pa. “Like a losing caucus candidate speaking in Waterloo, IA.”
Over news that Trump held a rally in Bucks County, Pa., outside Philadelphia, wherein Trump pledged to put “our miners back to work,” Burns commented, “Like going to Manhattan and pledging to defend sugar subsidies. Really great,” he tweeted.
Burns has had plenty of company in the dump-on-Trump arts. Michael Hirsh, national editor of Politico’s magazine, let fly after a colleague confessed his exhaustion with covering the Republican nominee. “The entire nation needs a vacation from a certain person. #LetItEnd,” Hirsh tweeted, apparently referring to Trump.
His Politico colleague Ben White offered his own one-word take on news that Trump had used donors’ money to buy copies of his book “Art of the Deal”: #scampaign,” he tweeted.
Editors have long tried to keep reporters’ opinions out of stories by excising them from unpublished copy. But social-media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook give scribes a direct and unfiltered publishing platform, enabling them to address thousands or even hundreds of thousands of followers without a meddlesome editor standing in the way.
A little caveat before I offer my reaction to the story: I went to the dentist yesterday and unexpectedly had a tooth extracted. So I'm lying on my couch under the influence of prescription painkillers as I type this. In other words, please forgive me if I make even less sense than usual.
Before my dental emergency, this was my initial response (heavy with sarcasm) to the Post story:
After reading the piece a bit more closely, here are five (mostly) serious thoughts:
1. It's interesting that the opening focuses on journalists keeping their opinions out of stories. However, that's just part of the concern for those who accuse the news media of bias. The other is the selection of what makes news and which stories news organizations choose to write. Even if every story a newspaper produces, for example, is fair and balanced, there's still a problem if the reporters and editors focus on certain stories (say, negative stories on Trump) while ignoring other, equally important stories (say, negative stories on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton).
2. It's humorous (at least to me) that the Post examples highlight #Biased political reporters from competitors such as the New York Times and Politico. Were there no examples closer to home?:
3. Mainstream political reporters' difficulty with Twitter isn't exactly breaking news. In 2013, Peter Hamby, then with CNN, published a 95-page scholarly paper titled "Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus?: Searching for a better way to cover a campaign."
From that paper (note: four-letter word edited out by me, not the original report):
Reporters are not exactly a humble bunch. But most of the journalists interviewed for this piece expressed some form of regret about how they used Twitter during the (2012) campaign. It was, by far, the biggest source of dismay and angst in discussions with reporters about the current state of political journalism.
No one is complaining about the revolutionary gateway to news and information that Twitter provides. But plenty of people in politics are anxious about the way the Twitter conversation thrives on incrementalism, self-involvement and snark.
“It made me think smaller when I should have been thinking bigger,” said Sam Youngman.
“Twitter just gives you an outlet for when you’re bored,” said another reporter who traveled on the Romney plane. “It’s just stupid (expletive) you are not thinking about the ramifications of.”
So apparently, not much has changed in four years. Except, in the Year of Trump, the problems have gotten worse.
4. Once again, the liberal bias seems to reinforce a recurring theme (and one that's hard to dispute): that the mainstream news media reflect a progressive worldview and fail to comprehend and/or appreciate the beliefs and concerns of those to the right — politically and theologically — of most reporters.
I shared these tweets last week but will do so again:
That lack of diversity came into play this week as radio host Hugh Hewitt suggested to MSNBC's Chris Matthews that over 90 percent of “Manhattan/Beltway media elites will vote for Hillary Clinton and will applaud her election.” Hewitt said that "seeps into coverage."
In the ensuing discussion, noted The Blaze, Matthews asked a New York Times reporter if she knew anyone at the Times who is pro-life. The reporter said she had not asked colleagues that question, which Matthews called a "cute" response and said made Hewitt's point.
5. At this point, I'd love to offer quick-and-easy solutions for all of the issues mentioned above. But I don't know that I have the mental capacity to do so today. Did I mention the prescription painkillers?
So instead, I'll end by endorsing this tweet from Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle that I saw this week:
Enjoy the weekend, everyone! The election is just 11 days away.