With the Democratic convention officially underway and the Republican convention only a month away, the eyes of the media are clearly focused on the race for President. The media pundits often refer to this race as a tight horserace that is clearly headed toward a photo finish.
When it comes to Presidential horse races, the media have a history of favoring one horse over the other. Every major media survey for the past twenty years has shown that an overwhelming majority of journalists consistently vote for Democrats. According to a Freedom Forum survey of Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents, 89 percent of the journalists surveyed voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 compared with just 7 percent who voted for George H. W. Bush.
To be fair, this is a private vote, and we do not expect journalists to avoid participating in the democratic process. However, we do expect them to report on a presidential race with fairness and objectivity.
Unfortunately, the gambling spirit has corrupted the media’s objectivity. The media not only favors one horse over the other, but it is placing bets on one.
“Follow the money,” was the memorable quote from All the President’s Men. Deep Throat advised Bob Woodward that the key to understanding the Watergate mystery was the money. If you follow the money trail of financial contributions in this year’s presidential campaign, it is clear that the media is placing bets on John Kerry’s steed.
The Associated Press reported that a San Francisco Chronicle editor was placed on paid leave for violating the newspaper’s ethics policy. William Pates, who was responsible for selecting letters to the editors, contributed $400 to the presidential campaign of John Kerry.
Editorial Page editor John Diaz, who relieved Pates of his duties, said, “The selection of letters to the editor is a very important job. It’s a gatekeeper role that can have a great deal of influence on what the perception is of public reaction to various issues.”
Bob Steele, a journalistic ethics specialist at the Poynter Institute, said “Making a political contribution is a form of activism, and journalists shouldn’t be activists.”
Pates is not the only journalists placing bets on the Kerry campaign, but several other self-described journalists are placing their bets.
A July 24, Washington Post article listed many of the fundraising contributors to Sen. Kerry’s presidential campaign. It is no surprise to find that the “Kerry money machine is dominated by educated liberals who opposed the war in Iraq, favor abortion rights and gun control?and despise the Bush administration.”
But, it is somewhat of a surprise to discover that journalists?the so-called objective reporters of the news?are some of Kerry’s biggest financial supporters. The Washington Post reports that ninety-three journalists gave to Kerry, and only one to Bush.
The media are supposed to function as society’s watchdog and referee. During a presidential campaign, we expect that the media oversee the running of the horse race to ensure a fair contest.
Is the media pulling for Kerry over Bush? You decide, but always remember: Follow the money! John Kerry’s horse is receiving a steady dose of financial steroids from the hands of the referee, the media.