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img016 - Politic by Other Mean have a stake in finding and...

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Unformatted text preview: Politic: by Other Mean; have a stake in finding and revealing damaging information ab?“ prominent politicians. Increasingly, media coverage has $0.1m? ‘0 10‘ fluence politicians’ careers, the mobilization of political. con- stituencies, and the fate of issues and causes. Inasmuch as liberal political forces in the 19705 and 19805 benefited from the grow— ing influence of the press, they were prepared to rush to its defense when it came under attack. For example, this constituency could be counted upon to denounce any move by the White House or its supporters to curb media influence as an illegitimate effort to man— age the news, chill free speech, and undermine the First Amend- ment. It was the emergence of these overlapping interests, more than an ideological bias, that often led to a de facto alliance be— tween liberal political forces and the national news media. This confluence of interests was in evidence during the 1996 presidential campaign. Most journalists endeavored to be even— handed in their coverage of the candidates. The media subjected all the major campaigns to regular scrutiny and criticism. However, as several studies have since indicated, during the course of the campaign the media tended to be more critical of Dole and more supportive of Clinton. Republican economic proposals were gen— erally dismissed by the media as gimmickry, Republican efforts to question President Clinton’s ethics—a topic the media had en- joyed probing during the previous years—were rejected as inap— propriate for a serious national campaign. Even the Republican- National Convention was dismissed, not without cause, as a staged event not worthy of much news coverage. A major network news program, Nightline, showed its disdain for the GOP’s convention by leaving before it ended, host Ted Koppel proclaiming, “Nothing surprising has happened.”21 One British observer wrote in reaction to these events, “Dole got his most sympathetic and in—depth cov— erage when he fell off the stage in Chico, California."22 This was an almost inevitable outgrowth of the de facto alliance that devel- oped over a number of years between the media and liberal forces. Like any long-standing relationship, this one tends to shape the at- titudes and perceptions of the participants. Without any need for Elworal Decay and I mtitutional C unflicz 35 overt bias or sinister conspiracy, journalists tend naturally to pro— vide more favorable coverage to liberal politicians and causes. The linkage between substantial segments of the media and liberal interest groups is by no means absolute. Indeed, over the past several years a conservative media complex has emerged in opposition to the liberal media. This complex includes two major newspapers, the Wall Streetjaama/ and the Washington Tim, sev- eral magazines such as the American 3172mm, and a host of conser- vative radio and television talk programs. These radio programs, in particular, helped Republicans win the 1994 congressional elec— tions. Conservative religious leaders like the Reverends jerry Fal- well and Pat Robertson, leader of the Christian Coalition, have used their television shows to attack the president's programs and to mount biting personal attacks on both Clinton and his wife. For example, a videotape promoted by Falwell accuses Clinton of ar- ranging for the murder of an Arkansas investigator who allegedly had evidence of the president's sexual misconduct. Other conserv— ative groups not associated with the religious right have also launched sharp assaults against the president. Nationally syndi- cated talk show host Rush Limbaugh is a constant critic of the ad- ministration. Floyd Brown, leader of Citizens United, a group with forty employees and a three-million-dollar annual budget, attacks Clinton on a daily radio show and faxes anti—Clinton news bulletins to more than twelve hundred journalists and talk show hosts. The emergence of this conservative media complex has meant that liberal policies and politicians are virtually certain to come under attack even when the “liberal” media are sympathetic to them. For example, charges that President Clinton and his wife were involved in financial improprieties as partners in the White— water Developmenr Corporation, as well as allegations that while governor, Clinton had sexually harassed an Arkansas state em- ployee, Paula Jones, were first publicized by the conservative press. Only after these stories had received a good deal of coverage in the Warbingtm Tim and the American Spectator did the mainstream “lib— eral” media begin to highlight them. Of course, once the stories ...
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