In yesterday's Media Notes the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz explained how the "mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley's big lead in the polls." Under the headline, Media Notes: Howard Kurtz on the Scott Brown story, he wrote.
Media outlets had some fun with the story, noting that Coakley didn't know Curt Schilling had played for the Red Sox and that Brown had posed nude for Cosmopolitan in 1982. But much as journalists were slow to recognize the significance of the "tea party" movement last summer, most didn't treat this race as a serious contest until the final 10 days.
Even the Boston Globe seemed caught by surprise. To the paper's credit, it asked on Dec. 17: "Can Scott Brown actually win this thing?," while quickly adding that he was still "considered a long shot."
The press had not taken the Tea Party seriously and was caught napping. They say the first step on the road to recovery is recognizing that you have a problem. In his very next piece, "Honeymoon is History", Kurtz unintentionally demonstrates that the mainstream media still don't get it. My emphasis below.
It's hardly a news flash that President Obama's media coverage has turned sour. But he still outshines his recent predecessors.
Obama still outshines his recent predecessors? What a stunning claim, coming as it does right after Massachusetts voters delivered an historic smackdown in the special election that took away his filibuster-proof senate majority. Could there be a more accurate gauge of his performance than that?
But Kurtz is really talking about something else. It's not Obama's performance that shines. It's press coverage of Obama's performance that shines as it works tirelessly to polish him up for an increasingly skeptical public.
Obama wound up 2009 with balanced coverage -- 49 percent positive, 51 percent negative -- according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, which studied the network newscasts, Time, Newsweek and the New York Times front page. But he swooned from 59 percent positive in the first four months of the year to 39 percent positive from August through December.
The researchers, from George Mason and Chapman universities, found the president drawing 46 percent positive evaluations on the NBC, ABC and CBS evening newscasts. By comparison, those networks were harder on George W. Bush (23 percent positive), Bill Clinton (28 percent) and Ronald Reagan (26 percent) in the first year of their terms.
"Media coverage has turned sour," said Kurtz, and by "sour" he meant balanced. Still out of touch. The sad part is this. When the mainstream media begin to take the Tea Party seriously, they won't give it objective coverage, but instead will continue to actively oppose it. Kurtz's unspoken complaint is the same one as Obama's. Had they been quicker to see the massive voter discontent, they might have been able to counter it and get Coakley elected. It would have been historic. The first female senator from Massachusetts. Too bad.