Reporters make choices

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Steve Benen:

It's rather amusing to listen to major media figures ponder the question of whether John McCain will be able to successfully change the subject away from the economy and towards controversial figures Barack Obama has met. It's entertaining, of course, because the media figures treat this as something they have nothing to do with -- as if the political discourse is some kind of independent animal, which news outlets are powerless to control.

The reality is, McCain wants the political world to obsess over the three-headed Ayers-Rezko-Wright monster, and it will be successful if the media decides the three-headed monster is suddenly newsworthy. There's no great mystery here. In fact, the pundits' speculation is silly -- if they follow McCain's orders, and talk about what he wants them to talk about, McCain's plan will be a triumph; if not, it won't.


The thing a lot of journalists don't seem to understand is that they don't have to cover attacks about Bill Ayers.

If they have concluded that Obama's non-friendship with a Chicago education activist who did controversial things 40 years ago when Obama was a child isn't as important as, say, the economy, there's nothing compelling them to cover Ayers. Nothing at all. The fact that John McCain or his surrogates want reporters to talk about Ayers doesn't mean they have to do so. "Journalism" doesn't mean "doing what John McCain wants you to do."

Candidates say thousands of words every day. The media ignores the vast majority of them. What makes MSNBC think they are required to broadcast the couple of dozen words Sarah Palin says about Bill Ayers? Particularly when she said the same couple of dozen words yesterday, too?

So we have the bizarre situation where reporters talk about things like Bill Ayers, all the while suggesting that things like Ayers are "distractions." Right! So ... stop!

If a reporter honestly thinks that with fewer than 30 days to go before election day -- and with early voting already underway in many states -- Bill Ayers is one of the most important things for voters to hear about, fine. He or sh should cover Ayers. But reporters who think that the economy, health care, war, terrorism, and the Constitution are more important should just cover those things. It doesn't matter if the candidates aren't talking about them -- reporters don't work for campaigns.

Is that really so hard to understand?

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