Has the old media worm turned against Obama?
The answer, in a word, is "No."
The old media worm has not turned against Obama, despite the much-publicized Newsweek cover featuring the president's photo with the caption, "Hit the road, Barack."
The cover set off a flurry of fireworks from leftist websites. For example, The Daily Beast logged the outrage coming from several liberal outlets, as well as comments from some conservative sources, including the American Thinker's editor, Thomas Lifson.
Writing for The Maddow Blog, a near-apoplectic Steve Benen wrote:
If, however, Newsweek's goal is to strengthen its reputation, and gain new respect as a major news outlet, Ferguson's new cover story marks an ignominious low for the once-great magazine, tarnishing the publication's reputation in ways likely to do lasting, irreparable harm.
Benen entitled his piece "Where political journalism must not go" and wrote that "... Ferguson's piece represents political journalism at its most atrocious." He adds, "What Ferguson and Newsweek published isn't journalism; it's a joke."
His criticism represents a rendition of an old saying which, in the Maddow Blog case, should read, "Throw a handful of stones into a pack of liberal columnists, and the ones that yelp loudest are the ones that got hit."
Betrayal, especially by a supposedly like-minded colleague, leaves a bruise. Hence Benen's adolescent criticism in calling Newsweek and its writer "a joke." He really means "insult" (to him and those like him) rather than "joke," since they're not laughing.
(As an aside, one wonders why the Maddow blog piece didn't accuse Newsweek of displaying a racist cover. "Hit the Road Jack" is a Ray Charles song, performed here. Go here for the lyrics. Do you suppose that the racist charge would have come had the picture and caption appeared on the cover of, say, National Review?)
Then, on the heels of Newsweek's apparent desertion from the legion of Obama-fawning news outlets, there came an unflattering photograph of Obama with his face hidden behind a teleprompter screen in Reuters. That got attention, too.
USA Today ran a story entitled "Obama has millions of fake Twitter followers." It begins with:
President Obama's Twitter account has 18.8 million followers -- but more than half of them really don't exist, according to reports. A new Web tool has determined that 70% of Obama's crowd includes "fake followers," The New York Times reports in a story about how Twitter followers can be purchased.
Add to those examples of an old media that shows signs of becoming more critical of Obama, the verbal spanking that CNN's Anderson Cooper recently gave to the DNC chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, albeit delivered in genteel language.
So is this the beginning of a groundswell of Obama-critical journalism coming from the liberal media? Or merely a few anomalies, mostly designed to attract more viewers?
Are some liberal editors and pundits imagining a President Romney and hedging their bets on the election's outcome, just as some campaign donors on Wall Street contribute to both parties?
To paraphrase Aristotle, "a few swallows don't make a summer," and a few examples of less biased media reporting are not evidence of a solid trend.
Like the campaign donors on Wall Street who contribute to both parties, are some liberal editors imagining a President Romney and hedging their bets on the election's outcome?
Past behavior is often the best predictor of future behavior. After John Kerry lost in 2004 to George W. Bush, the New York Times focused on the "flip-flop." Damien Cave wrote, in his December 26, 2004 piece entitled "Flip Flopper," that "[n]ever, perhaps, has such a silly word had such an impact on a presidential campaign."
So the election in 2006 was all about a silly word with a big impact. Really? What does that lead us to expect from that paper if Barack Obama loses the election? How about an article lede reading, "Never has such an innocent sentence like 'You didn't build that' had such an impact"?
If Obama loses, the old liberal media will catalogue the reasons for his fall.
But we shouldn't expect any confession that they intentionally misrepresented him for six years, from 2006 to 2012. There will be no admission of their failure to do journalistic due diligence concerning his background and qualifications to become president. Nor a collective stomach-pumping to purge their Kool-Aid-invoked reporting on him as president.
The old media's postmortem on an Obama loss is more likely to blame racism, the extremist conservative blogosphere, the radical Tea Party, dissention within the Obama campaign staff, and a bad economy that will remain Bush's fault at least as long as former Secretary of State Madeline Albright can talk.
So the answer to the question as to whether or not the old media worm has turned against Obama is -- the worm squirmed some, but it has not turned. Any of their aggravation that may be directed toward him will pertain not to his statist intentions, but to his political implementation. In short, a failure in action -- not motive.
Meanwhile, the Romney folks are sharp enough to know that the old media worm will never fully turn in their direction should they usher in the next presidential administration.
But it remains to be seen if they realize that the media calculus -- to use one of Obama's favorite words -- has irrevocably shifted. Both the liberal and conservative wings of the new internet media are here to stay. In fact, they're both in their pre-elementary school years, with much more growth and development ahead.
We'll know if a potential Romney administration understands this when we see the gathering of White House correspondents at the initial briefing called by the new regime.
Will the camera show the same ol' herd of sheep, but now with a hostile intent? For they will have been sheared in an Obama loss, too.
Or will representations from the new media also be invited, and one or two perhaps even be seated in the front row, where Helen Thomas used to perch?
Will a few Thomas Lifson-types be there? Along with representatives from sites like The Daily Beast and the Daily Kos?
That gathering, if it comes, will tell us much about what to expect from Washington going forward.