Morning Joe’s panel of journalists roundly criticized President Obama after he blamed the media for the tone of the election during his keynote speech at the Syracuse University 2016 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Journalism ceremony Monday evening in Washington, D.C.:
Good reporters like the ones in this room all too frequently find yourselves caught between competing forces, I’m aware of that. You believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate. You’ve staked your careers on it. Our democracy needs you more than ever. You’re under significant financial pressures, as well.
So I believe the electorate would be better served if your networks and your producers would give you the room, the capacity to follow your best instincts and dig deeper into the things that might not always be flashy, but need attention.
And Robin proves that just because something is substantive doesn’t mean it’s not interesting. I think the electorate would be better served if we spent less time focused on the he said/she said back-and-forth of our politics. Because while fairness is the hallmark of good journalism, false equivalency all too often these days can be a fatal flaw. If I say that the world is round and someone else says it’s flat, that’s worth reporting, but you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round. And that shouldn’t be buried in paragraph five or six of the article. (Applause)
A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It is to probe and to question, and to dig deeper, and to demand more. The electorate would be better served if that happened. It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep. (Applause) And there are reporters here who know they can’t keep them. I know that’s a shocking concept that politicians would do that. But without a press that asks tough questions, voters take them at their word. When people put their faith in someone who can’t possibly deliver on his or her promises, that only breeds more cynicism.
Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough took issue with Obama’s comments, saying that his criticism of the media is hypocritical for someone who hasn’t had a sit-down interview with The Washington Post in seven and a half years, choosing instead YouTube stars sitting in a bathtub filled with milk and Froot Loops.
Politico president and CEO Jim Vandehei said that Obama often goes to friendly media outlets to avoid the tough scrutiny, and that one of the biggest critiques he’ll (Obama) hear from investigative reporters is that there is a lack of transparency in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process and other instruments that government can do. This from a President who promised that his administration would be the most transparent in history.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson said that it drives him nuts that while Obama lectures the media on how to cover Donald Trump—and despite the media writing stories on how Trump’s numbers don’t add up—voters keep voting for Trump. That has Robinson wondering how the media are supposed to do anything about it.
Obama and the liberal media haven’t always had the best relationship during his presidency, and it appears that with less than 10 months until he leaves office, he’s going to burn his bridges with them sooner rather than later.