Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chuck Todd shows everything that's wrong with political journalism

Chuck Todd the "senior" MSNBC political editor ( I have no idea who the "junior" editors are) appeared on MSNBC recently and gave a stupefyingly inaccurate take on congressional Democratic anger at Robert Gibbs statement on Meet The Press that "without a doubt the Republicans can win back the House".

Todd referred to the anger of congressional Democrats and Nancy Pelosi as " the Democrats circular firing squad". He had nothing to say about the political stupidity or the potential consquences of Gibbs' statement coming from the White House.

That assessment was, as we say in Brooklyn, not just dumb but stupid. But Todd seemed to think that Obama and Gibbs were blameless in what was an act of political ineptitude not to mention a political tin ear on the part of the Obama Administration. Mocking the Democrats reaction seemed to indicate that in Todd's political world the Democrats should have what? Kept their mouths shut? Agreed with an assessment that three months before the election was specious to say the least?

The accepted wisdom now, both by Democrats and the White House was that it was a stupid thing to say, and the White House, and Gibbs tried to back track. Humorously, Joe Biden tried to undo the damage by saying the Democrats would "shock" people by retaining both houses of congress. Biden's statement that it would be a "shock" didn't endear the White House to congressional Democrats either. He sounded more like a befuddled sitcom dad trying to say the right thing and making it worse.

But getting back to Todd,we soon found out why Todd blamed congressional Democrats and mocked them for their reactions to Gibbs comments and not the White House for making them. Todd had a scheduled one on one television interview that afternoon with president Obama. Which explained everything.

Maybe Todd didnt understand the incredibly stupid blunder made by Gibbs and Obama or didnt want to admit that the reason the Democrats have an uphill battle at all is because of Obama's excruciating failures in healthcare reform ( selling out the public option), financial reform in not reforming the things that caused the crisis in the first place, not to mention persistant high unemployment and the fact that most independents and liberals are fed up with Obama and the job he's done, something Todd would never point out since he was going to meet with Obama that afternoon.

For Todd and everyone else covering Washington its called "access" and its the coin of the realm which is why 95% of the reporters covering Obama have and will continue to sell out any pretext to journalistic integrity so as not to endanger their "access".

This is not a partisan thing in spite of the right wing's constant complaints about a liberal press. The mainstream media did the same thing for 8 years with Bush, behaving like lap dogs because the Republicans controlled the White House and congress. What mattered then to the press is the same thing that matters now and that is "access".

The press clearly had an agenda during the Democratic primary to see Obama get the nomination making race a cause celebre trumping character and qualifications, and turning a blind eye to short comings in Obama that would have sunk any other candiate. Most are now reluctant to admit their mistake. Journalists never like to admit mistakes. Which is why the mistake appears on page one and the correction on page 31.
But what we saw with Chuck Todd the other day, attempting to absolve the White House of one of the more stupid political blunders of the year and try to turn it on congressional Democrats knowing he had the Obama interview that afternoon, gives more proof as to why the mainstream news media cant be trusted. Or rather the people in it. ( It should be said that Chris Matthews while I dont agree with him half the time, is an exception. He has no problem telling a guest what he really thinks and doesnt care whether they like it or not.)

Someone named Shira Toplitz, a political reporter at Politico recently extolled the virtues of Chuck Todd by saying:

"Chuck Todd is a genius, and I probably didn't even fully realize it at my young age -- when I was working there -- just how much of a genius he is. And now the whole world can see it on Twitter and MSNBC every day. . . . Not only does he know politics in every district so well, he also knows the news business. . . .He gets this town, he gets how it operates, he knows how politics work, and he knows how to inspire young writers, particularly, to go after stories." Ahem.

Chuck Todd demonstrated he does know Washington and how the news business works (emphasis on "business" not journalism) and knows how to temper and twist what he says so as not to offend anyone he wants access to. That is what he knows about the news business. Not that he is alone in this. Its become the modus operandi of most journalists covering Washington. If you offend someone with the truth you can usually forget about "access" in the future. Or having them come on your show as a guest.

Toplitz' starry eyed impressions of Todd is also a reason why there is no real hope in sight that anything will be different anytime soon. There can only be two reactions by people in their 20's who might consider journalism as a career watching how it's currently practiced. Either its "This stinks, who wants to do that?" or " Wow, I want to do that". Its safe to assume the only people going into journalism over the last ten years are the ones saying " I want to do that". And it shows.

But if more who look at journalism and say "this really stinks" decide they want to reform it and get it back to its first amendment roots, it's possible journalism will change sometime in the distant future. Maybe.


Alessandro Machi said...

I offered a solution on Daily PUMA on how to solve the media's reluctance to actually deliver news.

TV LAND could and should change the news landscape

What is Really Stopping Hillary Clinton from becoming president in 2012 or beyond

Marc Rubin said...

"I offered a solution on Daily PUMA on how to solve the media's reluctance to actually deliver news"

I think this is a good idea. The other way is to try and shame them into it by naming names as much as possible.