When a journalist tries to dispute an anchor's dubious line of questioning, he gets an earful and has his mic cut.
So is it fair game to talk about Mitt Romney's alleged incidents of bullying in high school? And if so, what do they mean? These are important, relevant questions right now. The perceived character of candidates is one criterion on which voters make their decisions, and it's entirely possible that the stories about the Republican's time at the Cranbrook School will affect his image. What's far less interesting is the "metastory": How will voters react to the way the campaign is handling it? These speculative segments are what fills cable news' gaping 24-hour news maw all day, but they're a bloating, bland, nutritionally empty snack. Lots of media types like to complain about these stories, and lots of media types (including many of the same ones) like to go on TV, so when they're on air they keep these complaints to themselves.
Here's what happens when they don't. Tim Carney, a columnist with the conservative Washington Examiner, was on MSNBC's NewsNation with Tamron Hall this afternoon to talk about Romney. Carney came out of the gate fast: "What you're doing here is a typical media trick. You hype up a story and then you justify the second-day coverage of the story by saying, oh, well people are talking about it." Hall almost immediately lost her cool, chastising Carney, telling him he didn't need to come on the show, shouting over him, and eventually cutting his mic. Sample line: "You don't me to go anything on you, because you're actually irritating me."
Carney was a little curt, but he's right. How many voters really care about the process story? And who thinks that Tim Carney, sitting in a studio in Washington, can explain how the American electorate in aggregate will react to strategic decisions by the Romney campaign? (Not Tim Carney, clearly). Moreover, he's exactly right about how TV news inflates stories. It's a bipartisan tactic: Jon Stewart showed some time ago how Fox News built up narratives by a two-step process: First, the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity talk up non-controversies; the next day, news anchors like Megyn Kelly would bring up the stories with the same "some people say" formulation.
Unsurprisingly -- as the clip shows -- the tactic of cutting off a guest, shouting at him, and cutting his mic makes MSNBC personalities look just as bad as Fox News ones.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.