Journalism professor asks: What took the Wright story so long to break?

Asks and answers (via Memeo):

Barring some really strange math or a lot of second thoughts, the Democrats seem poised to nominate for president a man with the fewest credentials and least familiarity to the American people of anyone in modern history. It’s just one more way that Barack Obama is breaking the mold, and barring a major shift, he should give some of the credit to the news media.

Presidential nominees have almost always been people who have run before and lost, or who have served as vice president or who have had years of experience as members of Congress or as prominent governors.

The only one I can remember who came close to Obama in the slim résumé department is Jimmy Carter, and his rise predated YouTube, ideological talk radio, the Internet and millions of bloggers. He also emerged at a time when political journalists still had and acted upon the instincts of a bloodhound.

The vetting of presidential and vice presidential candidates has long been a responsibility that journalists took seriously:

Two reporters won a Pulitzer Prize for disclosing that George McGovern’s short-lived choice for running mate in 1972, Thomas Eagleton, had been treated for mental illness.

In 1984, news exposure of the financial dealings of Geraldine Ferraro’s husband after she became Walter Mondale’s running mate threw that campaign into a tizzy.

In 1988, reporters discovered that Dan Quayle, George H.W. Bush’s obscure running mate, had used family influence to land a cushy desk job in the Indiana National Guard and avoid service in Vietnam.

In this election, alas, most of the bloodhounds have lost their sense of smell. For the most part, they’ve relinquished that space to bloggers and radio talkers who have an ideological agenda, not an obligation to root out the facts and present them fairly.

Wright coverage

Thus, the coverage of Obama’s spiritual relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ is disturbing.


Obama’s challenge

Speculation aside, Obama has been ill-served by a press corps that seemingly was mesmerized by the large, frenzied crowds who turn out to see the Democratic rock star. Crowds can be deceiving: McGovern, nobody’s idea of a rock star, attracted huge and exuberant crowds throughout the fall of 1972 — on his way to losing 49 states to Richard Nixon.

Better that Obama forget the crowds and concern himself with the several million older, moderate Democrats and independents whom he’ll need in a close general election. They won’t just listen to what he says, they’ll try to peer into his soul. That’s why the Wright story is important in assessing his candidacy.

More than two years ago, at a Gridiron Club news media dinner in Washington, Obama poked fun at his meager accomplishments when he told his audience: “I want to thank you for all the generous advance coverage you’ve given me in anticipation of a successful career. When I actually do something, we’ll let you know.”

But the joke was on the journalists then, and now that Obama is about to actually do something, it still is.

Read the whole thing. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but I think there is a subtle implication there that the culprit is liberal media bias.

Don Campbell, the journalism professor who wrote the column, teaches at Emory University. Brent Baker at Newsbusters has more from his bio:

Don Campbell’s 30-plus years in journalism included nearly two decades as a Washington reporter, editor and columnist for Gannett Newspapers and USA Today. He also served as director of the Washington Journalism Center and of a fellowship program for journalists newly assigned to Washington. He taught journalism at Northwestern University, the University of Oregon and Arizona State University before he coming to Emory. Author of “Inside the Beltway: A Guide to Washington Reporting,” Don is also a freelance writer and serves on USA Today’s board of editorial contributors.

In other words, this professor and former journalist has been around the industry for a while and knows what he’s talking about. I only hope he’s doing more than just writing about it in the USA Today, and that he’s also using the extremely lopsided favorable coverage of Barack Obama’s candidacy as a case study in his classroom.

Goodness knows we could use some more critical thinkers in journalism to offset the overwhelmingly leftist mindset in newsrooms across the country.

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