Most Americans recognize that the vast majority of reporters are liberals.
- The most recent Pew Research study of bias in the media revealed that 40% of journalists described themselves as left-leaning, while 25% described themselves as leaning to the right.
- In 2013, Gallup found that 46% of Americans considered the press as “too liberal,” while 13% considered the press “too conservative.”
So there’s no question that liberals have friend in the media. So why, then, are prominent liberals so afraid of facing live reporters?
Consider these recent examples, two politicians and newspaper publisher.
- President Obama has held half as many press conferences as George W. Bush, who held more than Bill Clinton. In point of fact, Obama – the great liberal hope – has held one-quarter as many press conferences as “Silent” Cal Coolidge.
Where Bush had the feisty Ari Fleischer and the media savvy Tony Snow as press secretaries and Obama led his first term with his confident confidante Robert Gibbs, he has opted in his more sullen second term for the uncomfortable and unlovable Jay Carney. Carney’s daily press briefings are painful exercises in kabuki dancing, not at all as free-wheeling and nourishing as those of his more self-assured predecessor, Gibbs.
At the moment, of course, Obama has been mostly silent on the rising Department of Veterans Affairs scandal. With the VA scandal rising in prominence in the daily news cycle, Carney has been forced to reveal how the President is “mad as hell” at the multiplying examples of malfeasance, ineptitude and possible fraud at the VA. Yet Obama, reluctant to face the reporters who viscerally side with him and helped get him elected, remains off camera.
- In New York, liberal leader Bill de Blasio has come out of the box as one of the most media-averse mayors in New York City history.
Hizzoner, the new mayor, has frozen journalists out of many public events that past mayors willingly opened up. Photographers and videographers have complained loudly that they are mostly restricted to relying on “pool coverage” to feed them footage of an event. The mayor’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s dominant Jewish lobby, is declared “off limits” to reporters; as is his talk to the City’s Urban Fellows Program. His press conference and few and far between, and taking his cue from the liberal leader in the White House, di Blasio’s press office sends out full transcripts of what press conferences he holds.
The mayor seems uncomfortable in his infrequent meetings with reporters and unwilling to answer many questions about controversial policies, such as the recent settlement announced with the United Federation of Teachers; many of policies di Blasio and his Administration promote are “historic” in their magnitude.
As proof of di Blasio’s slipping standing with the press and public, even The New York Times, no fan of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has begun to criticize the new mayor’s disdain for the media.
- And then, of course, there is the great Gray Lady herself, the uber liberal New York Times, and its own reluctance to deal with the media.
Latest proof: The refusing-to-go-away firing of Executive Editor Jill Abramson, the first woman ever to lead the paper.
This month, Abramson was canned by Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., who held a hasty meeting with editors and then with staff and issued a terse memo that concluded she was being fired due to her “newsroom management.”
No doubt the Times offered Abramson a chance to “resign” gracefully, and she refused. That should have been a sign to Sulzberger that he needed to reveal everything about the rationale for the offing.
He didn’t, and Abramson’s surrogates – most notably the self promotional journalist Ken Auletta – spread a bogus tale that Abramson rebelled after discovering her pay and pension paled in comparison to her predecessor’s. Inexplicably, it took the Times and its publisher three days to set the record straight on Auletta’s whole cloth hypothesis.
By then, of course, the Times had beaucoup egg on its face, yet another liberal victim of fear to confront the press.
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Fraser P. Seitel has been a communications consultant, author and teacher for 40 years. He may be reached directly at email@example.com. He is the author of the Prentice- Hall text The Practice of Public Relations, now in its eleventh edition, and co-author of Rethinking Reputation and Idea Wise.