Hey Journalist, Why Don't You Report On...

I'll begin one in an occasional series of posts on the liberals, media bias, and journalists with an observation that there is almost universal praise from the left blogosphere about the straightforward way that the press is covering the gas tax holiday proposals of Sen. Hillary Clinton and John McCain, much to the chagrin of Hillary Clinton and John McCain. There's little equivocation in the copy of journalists: almost no one who knows anything about the economy and gas prices believes that a gas tax pause is a good idea. Critics tend to fault journalists for being overly and artificially evenhanded when covering issues and ideas, but many issues and ideas aren't as easily or accurately judged as this one is.

The inbox this morning were several plantive pleases about a particular YouTube video from 1992 that is making the rounds. The e-mails went like this: Why haven't you reported on the YouTube video? You reported on Rev. Wright (which hurt my favorite candidate). So you're hopelessly biased if you don't report on the Youtube. Strange sense of fairness and logic aside, the Youtube video is from 1992, is only tangentially related to anything, and reporting on it would serve, as Barack Obama might say, as a distraction from the real issues. There's also the possibility that the tape is a fraud.

Without relitigating the coverage of Rev. Wright, it's fair to say that some associations are game to scrutinize and others aren't. The best way to draw the line, I think, is in the quality and importance of the association. Judging the quality and importance and the association is more art than science, to be sure, if you don't draw that line, then guilt-by-association arguments have no bearing. I am most suspectible to reivsing my analysis when criticism comes from people who are arguing against their interest and with a degree of intellectual honesty that transcends their partisan preferences.

Incidentally, when some critics say "report," they really mean "mention" or "put on your blog." Two different things. Reporting entails an open mind and contacting sources; putting it on a blog entails a few mindless keystrokes. I do both, although I check everything I post, and I find it funny when partisans congratulate me for "reporting" on something when all I've really done is to give it a brief mention, as if the very presence alone is all that's required.