Accuracy in Media

Climate “scientists” are about as trusted as used-car salesmen or congressmen these days thanks to the beating their profession has taken in the “ClimateGate” scandal. But give the alarmists their due: They know how to hide the decline.

Their friends in the media, on the other hand, are not quite so skilled at chicanery. The press practices plenty of sniper journalism, the kind that kills unaware readers and viewers from afar. But journalists attack in the open often enough that Americans can watch the decline of the Fourth Estate in all of its embarrassing glory.

They had a lot to watch in 2009 — a year marked by the media’s anointed leader moving into the White House, liberals ascending to one-party control of Washington and, to hear journalists report it, an angry mob of dangerous extremists daring to reject the hope-and-change narrative.

There were so many media lowlights that it’s a challenge to pick the best of the worst for a year-end recap, but here goes:

“Teabaggers” everywhere! The mainstream media’s abysmal coverage of the “tea party” movement wins the award for media bias of the year hands down.

The movement started with a small protest against the pork-laden stimulus in Seattle on Presidents Day in February but quickly snowballed into a nationwide phenomenon that is still going strong. Journalists diligently suppressed the story for weeks, but when the movement grew despite the attempt to kill it with lack of publicity, the media coverage turned ugly. The most unprofessional, unethical and utterly embarrassing moments included:

— Susan Roesgen of CNN berating tea partiers rather than interviewing them during a live report on the Tax Day Tea Party event in Chicago. “Why do you say he’s a fascist? He’s the president of the United States,” she scolded one protester. Her rants were so biased that a former CNN star said Roesgen “crossed a journalistic line.” Three months later, she lost her job.

— Anchors and media celebrities embracing the term “teabaggers,” a vulgar reference to oral sex, as a descriptor for Americans protesting runaway government spending, regulation and inevitable taxation. The Media Research Center documented that episode of decline, including one MSNBC segment where the term was used 51 times, in R-rated detail. Anderson Cooper of CNN issued a phony apology for using the term, but journalists regularly repeated it all year.

— MSNBC manipulating video footage of a gun-toting protester to insinuate that the town halls of summer were inciting violence by racists who hate America’s first black president. Why edit the video? Because the man toting the gun was black, a fact that would have undermined the story. Journalists largely ignored reports of actual violence by liberal protesters, including the beating of Kenneth Gladney and the finger-chomping of William Rice, for the same reason.

Global warming games. The tea party movement exposed the bias of liberal journalists to start the year, and ClimateGate did the same to end it. E-mails and other documents showed that for years, leading climate scientists had been manipulating scientific data, suppressing research, and playing politics in the peer-review system.

Major news outlets largely ignored the story, and green-friendly environmental reporters like Andrew Revkin of The New York Times, who later took a buyout from the newspaper, worked hard to spin the news as insignificant. The coverage continued a pattern of quashing inconvenient news that also was apparent when the Society of Environmental Journalists cut the microphone of a global warming critic questioning Al Gore.

Only one U.S. newspaper, the McClatchy-owned Miami Herald, had the weakness of editorial character to sign a multinational, multilingual editorial urging a global agreement for “overcoming climate change.” But American journalists proved time and again that they largely agree with the idea behind the editorial even if they didn’t sign it.

Obamania. The occasionally critical press coverage that President Obama has garnered may mislead news consumers into thinking that the media have reported on him objectively, but they have not. The media’s Obama worship of Campaign 2008 continued into 2009. The newsroom swoon when Obama visited The Washington Post a few days before inauguration serves as an apt symbol for the first year of his presidency.

The adulation that began on Inauguration Day — Michelle Malkin tracked the clichéd coverage — continued unabated for months. Newsweek editor Evan Thomas, for example, literally compared Obama to God soon after publishing a fluff piece about him. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism confirmed the obvious in a study — that Obama garnered far more positive press in his first 100 days than his predecessors. Even liberal journalists noticed the bias.

The fascination with Obama was on display at most of his nationally televised press conferences, as reporters repeatedly lobbed softball questions to him.

“Palinoia.” The media’s contempt for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is as strong as its love for Obama. Their animosity for Palin spawned a new term in political discourse — “Palinoia” — and journalists had bouts of the disease on and off all year.

One episode occurred in the summer, when Palin made a figurative reference to “death panels” being part of the Democratic health-care plan. Journalists interpreted her comment literally so they could call Palin a liar. Just last week, the supposedly objective fact-checking organization PolitiFact and its sheep-like audience declared “death panels” the “Lie of the Year.”

In the fall, attention turned to Palin’s best-selling book, “Going Rogue.” Associated Press was so determined to embarrass her that it assigned 11 fact-checkers to review the book, and Newsweek ran hit pieces illustrated by sexist photos. MSNBC, meanwhile, had to apologize for using fake photos of Palin in one of its stories.

The media’s penchant for attacking Palin also led to two unprofessional encounters at one book signing in Grand Rapids, Mich. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell had to be restrained (starting at the 1:40 mark of the video) while trying to question Palin, and MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell staged a “gotcha” moment with a teenage Palin fan.

Van Who? What ACORN videos? Ignorance may be bliss, but in the news business, it’s also bias. Fortunately, the low barriers to journalism in the information age give conservatives the ability to break news on “the fringe” and force the “professionals” to stop neglecting their duty.

That’s how Van Jones lost his cushy job as Obama’s “green jobs” czar. No matter how radical Jones’ political beliefs or how insulting his behavior, establishment journalists scoffed at the suggestion that they should care. As a result of their willful ignorance about Jones being unfit to serve the country, their reputations took a hit.

Rather than learn from the mistake, however, the media quickly repeated it by tuning out another scandal involving the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Undercover activists caught ACORN officials on tape professing a willingness to enable child prostitution and tax fraud, among other offenses.

ACORN’s sins were outrageous by any standard, but Charlie Gibson of ABC News laughed and said he “didn’t even know” the Senate had voted to cut funding to the group. When The New York Times reluctantly covered the story, it chastised conservatives for their investigative tactics and refused to admit that liberal bias explained the paper’s lapse in news judgment.

(Special thanks to Hot Air, Instapundit and Michelle Malkin, whose archives, along with our own here at AIM, were a great roadmap for this walk down media memory lane.)

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