Monday, May 10, 2010

The MSM: Mouthpieces of the State Democrats

The state Democrats are totally winning the negative propaganda war in the Maryland Governor’s race and their mouthpieces are none other than the “objective” mainstream media (MSM). Here’s why.

The easiest thing to cover in politics is the horse race. It involves no research or perspective. There is little work. The candidates write the stories for the journalists, who merely transcribe them. There is non-stop content. Minimal writing skills are required. That is playing out in Maryland right now. And the real author of much of the state’s political coverage is effectively the Maryland Democratic Party.

Just look at what has been written over the last three months. When the Dems complained to the FCC about Bob Ehrlich’s on-air promotion of a client, the Post and Sun carried it immediately. When the Dems complained to the State Board of Elections about Ehrlich’s use of his law firm employees for campaign purposes, the Sun ran it on the same day and followed up soon after. When the Dems protested Ehrlich’s radio show, the Post picked it up. And when the Dems pointed to a trailer about a movie on disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff that included one quick snapshot of Abramoff and Ehrlich, the Post and Sun jumped on it. Forget the fact that Ehrlich was never charged, or even named as an unindicted co-conspirator, in the corruption scandal.

None of this has anything to do with the candidates’ records or what either of them would do in the next term. Ironically, when the Post grumbled that the Governor’s race pitted “Mr. Duck vs. Mr. Dodge,” they missed the obvious point that the MSM’s fixation with horse race coverage was actually allowing the candidates to run substance-free campaigns. For example, has any reporter really pressed Ehrlich on how he would pay down the state budget deficit while cutting the sales tax? Has any reporter really pressed Martin O’Malley on how he would pay down the deficit without a big tax hike? Has anyone in the MSM asked either candidate how he would pay for needed transportation projects? And has anyone in the MSM pressed either candidate to lay out a governing vision for the next four years? Horse race coverage is lots of fun and has its place, but should it be an outright substitute for factual examination of the candidates’ records and positions?

Our intention is not to criticize the state Democrats. They are running an aggressive, humorous and wicked propaganda operation against Ehrlich – which is, after all, their job. The state Republicans have a broken party apparatus with no money, little staff and no creativity, so it is their own fault that they are getting outplayed by the Dems. The best anti-O’Malley propaganda appears on blogs like Red Maryland, but since they are merely blogs, they are ignored by MSM reporters who concentrate only on “official” sources like the state parties. Advantage: Democrats. Don’t the reporters know they are getting used?

And so few pieces like Gazette reporter Sean Sedam’s careful look at the race - which includes a genuine examination of some aspects of the candidates’ records – have appeared in either the Post or the Sun. For the most part, both papers are too busy focusing on the state Dems’ latest pokes at Ehrlich to care about anything substantive. This is a great victory for Martin O’Malley and his party, but it is a great loss for real journalism.