10 November 2012

A Final Election Commentary

For years, I've been bemoaning the fact that objective journalism seems to have been replaced, particularly in the television news media, by what can only be described as obvious and overt partisanship. I took some journalism classes in high school and college, and worked for several news agencies such as the university's newspaper (The Parthenon), the city newspaper (Huntington Herald-Dispatch), and did some freelancing for the Associated Press and United Press International (the wire services - what passed for the "Internet" of the news world in the 20th Century). Had I ever displayed the one-sided reporting like today's news reporting, I'd have been fired. The big TV networks do it, the newspapers do it (though mostly on the Op-ed pages where it is clear that it is opinion being offered). It's the primary reason that I quit watching TV news many years ago. It's sensationalized, very one-sided, and typically, if the subject is politics or other "controversial" subject, they are also very, very biased. As has been obvious (at least to me) during this election cycle, different networks tend to lean to the right or left, and they don't do a good job of indicating what is fact, and what is opinion and commentary. Thus the rise of such groups as PolitFact.com and FactCheck.org. "Back in the day," groups like this really weren't needed because the news media said "This side says this and we checked and this is the reality" which ever way it went.

On to the point. On Tuesday night, a friend, C, came over to watch the returns with me. I don't remember agreeing to this, because I intended to vote in the morning, then ignore the whole damn thing until Wednesday, and read it online. But I must have said "c'mon over". We watched ABC most of the evening, but close to 11:00PM, C says "let's have some laughs and switch over to FoxNews".  You can see where this is going, I'm sure. We're both pretty far left when it comes to social issues, but both of us are far more moderate when it comes to fiscal issues (though we do NOT totally agree with Mitt Romney's proposals). Anyway, FoxNews is known as a conservative - far right, actually - "news organization". So we are more or less laughing at the obviously biased reporting, and just after 11, when my Twitter feed, Facebook, and three news websites blew up with the announcement that Obama was now officially projected to win, since he'd just been officially projected to win Ohio, which was THE STATE you had to win to get your 270 Electoral Votes to become the president. Then this:

C and I were first trying to figure out if we'd missed something! Every network, every news feed, the newspapers, all were now 99.5% sure that Obama had won. Now to be honest, I was hoping they'd all declare Romney the winner, then we could have another "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment, and I'd get to laugh, Laugh, LAUGH!!!! But then today, while perusing my usual news feeds, trying to find balance, I saw this op-ed piece (clearly disclosed) about the whole Rove deal on FoxNews Tuesday night. (If you're dedicated and read through this, I'll tell you about C's trip to my house Tuesday, so you'll get another laugh before you leave.)

Karl Rove rejects reality

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
updated 2:57 PM EST, Fri November 9, 2012
Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.

(CNN) -- As televised theater, it was hard to beat. As political prognostication, it was a head-scratching moment. As partisan warfare, it was nothing short of audacious.

But Karl Rove's insistence that Barack Obama had not carried Ohio -- despite the call by his own network, Fox News, that the president had done just that -- represented something larger. It captured, for some long and awkward moments, the refusal of some in the media-and-politics game to accept reality.

And that has been a recurring pattern this year.

We're not talking here about a bad judgment call by a pundit. Everyone in the commentary business, including yours truly, has made those. If failed predictions were a felony, the jails would be filled with media folks.

Rove, to be sure, is a smart guy. He wasn't called George W. Bush's architect for nothing. He helped his guy win two presidential elections. He knows polls inside out.

But Rove occupies a rather unique perch at Fox, and not just because he jumped from the Bush White House to the role of conservative cable commentator.

Rove, who also has a Wall Street Journal column, helped create two political action committees, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies, that raised and spent about $175 million in this campaign, most of it on television ads promoting Mitt Romney or attacking Obama. He was, in every sense of the word, a full-fledged political player.

But he was also Fox's most visible contributor, appearing far more often than Sarah Palin, delivering his political insights on shows from morning to night.

Fox isn't the only news channel to employ active partisans -- CNN has a few, too -- and media organizations long ago decided to blur the line between journalism and politics.

I know the ties are generally disclosed, but personally, I wouldn't allow anyone who raises money or holds a party position to be on a news organization's payroll. Why should viewers think they're getting anything but one-sided spin?

Still, Rove undoubtedly wants to preserve his reputation as a political seer, which is why it was so stunning when he went rogue on Tuesday night.

It was a moment of high drama.

Fox News, CNN and MSNBC {my note: and ABC and the Associated Press} were each in the process of calling Ohio -- and thus the presidential race -- for Obama. But Rove began arguing with his Fox colleagues.

"I don't know what the outcome is gonna be, but you shouldn't, you gotta be careful about calling things when you've got something like 991 votes separating the two candidates and a quarter of the vote left to count," he said. "Even if they had made it on the basis of select precincts, I'd be very cautious about intruding in this process."

Rove was, of course, wrong; Obama won Ohio, and a second term. But what is striking is that he was challenging the decision-desk professionals at his network in a way that looked like he refused to accept the country's judgment.

This, unfortunately, has been a recurring theme all year. When Romney was down in the polls, some conservatives complained that media organizations were putting out biased surveys (which led to such sites as unskewedpolls.com). When unemployment dropped in September, even critics as prominent as Jack Welch accused the Obama administration of cooking the books without a scintilla of evidence.

And when Nate Silver, The New York Times' number-crunching blogger, predicted Obama had a 90% chance of winning, conservatives accused him of bias. Turns out he called the outcome correctly in every state.

Donald Trump, who hardly distinguished himself in this campaign by pushing the birther nonsense, ranted on Twitter on Election Night that Obama's victory was a "disgusting injustice." So he not only doesn't accept that the president was born in Hawaii, he doesn't accept that Obama won the election fair and square.

I wouldn't suggest that Rove believes in any of this conspiracy stuff, though he doubled down on Thursday by saying the president won by having "suppressed the vote," which flies in the face of Obama's efforts to boost turnout. But for a brief moment on Election Night, we got a glimpse of pure partisanship in the guise of journalism.

 Still with me? Now I get to make fun of a very dear friend. I can't remember if C knows about my blog, so if you do, and you read this, it's all in fun! As mentioned, I forgot that I'd agreed to this evening. But since I said "OK", I try my best not to renege, and C is a long time friend (over 30 years, one of the first people I met when I moved to Virginia back in 1980). We had agreed on 7PM, with pizza from me, snacks from him. I sent C directions to my house from HIS house, about 40 road miles south of me. But at about 4:30PM he calls me and says "I am in Richmond already" - where he had lived for 20+ years. I said "OK, where are you?" and gave  him what I considered very simple directions to get to my house from where he was:
Get on P-e South ("I know where that is")
Follow it to C-house Road
Bear right on C-house Road
Go through the stoplight, and turn right on C-ann Drive
Follow C-ann Road until it ends, and turn left
Go through the stop sign and make the first left onto {my street}
I am at the end of the street, house number is on big green sign on the mailbox post (highway style, engineering grade Scotchlite, visible from 300 yards away)
At 7:40PM, he hasn't arrived. Then the phone rings. It's C. He's on Midlothian Tnpk. He just passed a mall ("It was on my left" indicating to me that he was headed WEST, the correct direction) about 3 miles from where to turn to get to my house from this spot. I tell him that and he hangs up. Twenty minutes later he calls back. He's on another road altogether, and going the WRONG WAY! It takes another 40 minutes to get him turned around, talk him through two more wrong turns, and get him to my house. In the meantime, I have discovered that the pizza that had been delivered 40 minutes earlier and that I was keeping warm, was all wrong. So at least we had fresh pizza since I called Pizza Hut and bitched them out. I have to admit I was more than a little put out. I mean, I gave two sets of clear, concise directions to my house. And C simply could not follow them. He told me he'd put his location in Richmond in Mapquest, and didn't understand the directions. Thus my 7 step directions, which he didn't follow. Nor does he know what a fricking SatNav (GPS) is. ARGH!!!! I mean, I put a street address into my Garmin Nuvi 350 and I get where I'm going. He finally arrived at about 8:20PM, and we had a good time laughing at the Republicans and the biased news media reporting that they seemed to just keep adding to. He did finally admit that in his "I need help" call, he'd told me that the mall was on his left, when in fact it was on his right. If I'd known that then, I could have turned him around and saved an hour of grief. Anyone else not know their left from their right?!?!?!?!

OK, long post is over. Part rant, part rave! HAHAHA! Unusual for me!

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