Many have criticized the mainstream media in recent years for liberal bias and depending on your political proclivity, you either agree wholeheartedly with that assertion or dismiss it outright as right-wing paranoia. However, using the recent filibuster by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and its subsequent coverage by the media as a benchmark, I was able to observe, hour by hour, the actual coverage by many different networks and news organizations.
I found that CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Roll Call, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC either didn’t highlight the event as it was unfolding or put it “below the fold,” meaning it ranked in search terms and on their web pages lower than such newsworthy events as the “Snowquester” and a group of Arabs doing the Harlem Shake. C-SPAN, FOX News, The Hill, Politico, and the Drudge Report carried the event front and center.
Instead of focusing on this perceived bias though, I thought I would highlight a larger issue; the general laziness and ineptitude of today’s press as a result of budget cuts in the field of journalism. Over the past few years, the press has gotten increasingly cozy with the objects of their reporting (the White House in particular) and the questions asked have been more or less softballs. But by sending E! News flunkies to the White House daily briefings and treating the Administration with deference, the press is not doing its job.
A free and independent press is necessary for any healthy democratic institution, as it ensures that the concerns of the citizens are brought to the fore and that those in positions of power are made to answer for their actions. Now, I understand press and government have a symbiotic relationship. The press needs to keep its access in order to remain employed, so they have to walk a fine line between asking important (and pointed) questions without alienating the Administration and getting booted from the press gallery.