On Sunday morning I happened to be watching TV while Howard Kurtz was performing on CNN's Reliable Sources. In this particular segment our glorious defenders from the Fourth Estate were explaining to us dolts in our living rooms that Sarah Palin really had no grounds for complaint over the news coverage she got. Why, the very idea was ludicrous.
KURTZ: But, you know, isn't that typical, that a politician would try to paint herself or himself as a victim?
MASON: As a victim, right. And create a straw man and, of course, run against the media and blame the media. And at one point she was saying, well, Hispanic voters didn't support us and the media was against us. And, you know, all these reasons why it didn't work with her and McCain, when really, you know, a lot of it comes down to her.
KURTZ: Beth Fouhy, there certainly are a lot of people out there though who think that we collectively have been unfair to Sarah Palin and we have been sexist. And look, there has been some bad reporting and there has been some unfair questions raised. But she obviously kind of conflates it into one big mess in terms of skewing the coverage.
FOUHY: Right, and that's the unfair part. There was a lot of really great coverage of Sarah Palin.
Look, she was running to be vice president. She was completely unknown until the very end of August. There was a lot of scrutiny, clearly a lot of vetting that the McCain campaign didn't do, that legitimate reporters went and undertook themselves.
The Associated Press, where I work, sent a bunch of investigative reporters to Alaska to look into her record, which is completely legitimate. So to conflate that with some of the bad reporting and some of the, you know, unfair stuff that she was -- you know, as Julie mentioned, was blaming on the mainstream media that we didn't even do, is completely ridiculous.
No mention was made of the flock of investigative reporters who went off to Chicago to investigate Barack Obama while the rest of the Associated Press was in Alaska. It was then that I jumped in with my own question for the panel, and demanded, "Hey, I've got a minute to spare. Tell me everything you know about the Annenberg Challenge." Of course, the panel couldn't hear me. Which meant that the answer I got was, at most, a minute shorter than the one I would have gotten had they been able to.
Rupert Murdoch believes the media have dug themselves a hole and the bunch on Reliable Sources was still digging as of Sunday.
Murdoch, whose company's holdings also include MySpace and the Wall Street Journal, criticized what he described as a culture of "complacency and condescension" in some newsrooms.
"The complacency stems from having enjoyed a monopoly--and now finding they have to compete for an audience they once took for granted. The condescension that many show their readers is an even bigger problem. It takes no special genius to point out that if you are contemptuous of your customers, you are going to have a hard time getting them to buy your product. Newspapers are no exception."
The 77-year-old Murdoch, recalling a long career in newspapers that began when his father's death forced him to take over the Adelaide News in 1952, said the profession has failed to creatively respond to changes wrought by technology.
"It used to be that a handful of editors could decide what was news-and what was not. They acted as sort of demigods. If they ran a story, it became news. If they ignored an event, it never happened. Today editors are losing this power. The Internet, for example, provides access to thousands of new sources that cover things an editor might ignore. And if you aren't satisfied with that, you can start up your own blog and cover and comment on the news yourself. Journalists like to think of themselves as watchdogs, but they haven't always responded well when the public calls them to account."
To make his point, Murdoch criticized the media reaction after bloggers debunked a "60 Minutes" report by former CBS anchor, Dan Rather, that President Bush had evaded service during his days in the National Guard.
"Far from celebrating this citizen journalism, the establishment media reacted defensively. During an appearance on Fox News, a CBS executive attacked the bloggers in a statement that will go down in the annals of arrogance. '60 Minutes,' he said, was a professional organization with 'multiple layers of checks and balances.' By contrast, he dismissed the blogger as 'a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing.' But eventually it was the guys sitting in their pajamas who forced Mr. Rather and his producer to resign.
"Mr. Rather and his defenders are not alone," he continued. "A recent American study reported that many editors and reporters simply do not trust their readers to make good decisions. Let's be clear about what this means. This is a polite way of saying that these editors and reporters think their readers are too stupid to think for themselves."
Unfortunately, this election has demonstrated that rather than address the misplaced arrogance, the press has gone in the opposite direction and injected more bias than ever into their reporting. No matter. Readers are too stupid to think for themselves anyway.