Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Do You Guys Read ABC's The Note?

This article pretty persuasively argues that ABC's The Note parrots RNC talking points and bitchily derides anyone to the left of Hadassah Lieberman. The site's conservative bias wouldn't be such a big deal, except that in the beginning of the article, the author makes the case that it defines the mainstream, moderate conventional wisdom of the Washington Press Corps, who supposedly read it every morning.

An inside-baseball daily tip sheet for a readership it has dubbed the "Gang of 500" (politicians, lobbyists, consultants, and journalists who help shape the Beltway's public agenda), The Note is posted online every weekday morning and is widely viewed as the agenda-setter for the political class.

It's an agenda setter, yet I almost never read it. Do you? I've never been a Beltway insider, but when I've glanced at it before, it just seemed really obvious and mainstream. About as indispensable as USA Today. The NY Times is where I go for headlines, and I'd assume Beltway reporters would read the Washington Post. Why is the Note so influential? Because of Cokie Roberts and Samuel Donaldson's soporific political analysis?

I just don't get it.

But I like how the Washington Monthly piece ended:

For all this deference to RNC talking points, The Note undoubtedly wishes to avoid being a tool of any party. It isn't FOX News, after all, and few of its staffers are right-wing partisans. Why, then, has The Note been so pliable?

Part of the explanation is specific to The Note: it's young, and, more than most media outlets, it's a product of the Bush era. ... But most of the reasons for The Note's effective, if inadvertent, RNC shilling have to do with broader factors affecting the mainstream media in general. These include a consolidated media landscape in which owners are multinational corporations, many of which share interests with the GOP. Equally important has been a tight Republican grip on Congress and the White House, which, combined with hardball tactics, has allowed Republicans to intimidate the press corps. Adding to the chorus has been a deep-pocketed right-wing noise machine ready to pounce on any traces of "bias," which has caused the press to veer defensively to the right. (The Note frets whenever Rush Limbaugh takes issue with its work but scoffs whenever liberal critics do the same.) And journalists, despite their reputation for leftish politics, understand that advancing their careers will be difficult if they're perceived as being overtly left or contemptuous of Republicans. By contrast, being tough on Democrats ups their credibility and is rewarded.

... Clearly, he-said, she-said conventions of reporting are inadequate when "he-said" is fact and "she-said" is fiction. And allowing the loudest partisans to set the parameters of debate can result in a very skewed view of left and right. Coming up with a remedy won't be easy. Meanwhile, though, journalists looking for guidance might want to cut down on The Note and think about whether it really plugs them in or simply perpetuates the problem.

Uh, the whole article is about how The Note perpetuates the problem (of right-wing MSM bias). Why is the writer hedging so much in that last sentence? OK, that sucked, but the previous paragraphs nicely summarized the problem.


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