Part 1—The Times and The One True Channel: Inexorably, your Daily Howler keeps banging out those results.
For years, we have said that it ought to be front-page news when cable news channels mislead or misinform the public.
This morning, the New York Times runs a front-page report about one of the cable news channels—the channel the Times doesn’t fear.
The Times report about MSNBC is absurdly misleading in at least one major respect. Still, its front-page placement sets a useful precedent.
We’ll examine that profile in our next post.
For now, let’s start with an email we received from a long-time reader. We’ve long admired this reader for her feist, but we found her email a bit frustrating:
EMAIL: I do not know why you are always trashing Maddow and giving a free ride to that low life scumbag Chris Christie—who will never run for president and may be forced to resign.Why the differential treatment of Maddow and Christie? We’ll offer two reasons:
First, Maddow is a journalist—Christie isn’t—and this site is about journalists. This has been the case for almost sixteen years, though some readers are still a bit unclear on this point.
Many sites tell us liberals exactly what we want to hear about Christie. They’re experts at saying the things we like. We focus on journalists here.
Here’s our second reason: we don’t yet know what Christie did in this puzzling fandango.
For the record, we’ve postulated a worse possibility than the theories Maddow has presented. We've imagined the possibility that he was trying to strong-arm money away from that billion-dollar development in Fort Lee.
That said, we don’t yet know what Christie has done. By way of contrast, we see Maddow’s work on TV every weekday night.
Quite often, her work is insultingly bad. And it’s bad right out in the open.
In our view, Maddow has become a clown in several major ways. This involves a trend which can be seen in the coverage of Fort Lee.
The coverage of the Fort Lee matter has often been appallingly poor. This has been true in the New York Times, a tremendously unprofessional newspaper. It has also been true on MSNBC, except for the superlative work being done by Steve Kornacki.
Front-page reporting in the Times has been astoundingly bad. In many ways, it follows the patterns described by Gene Lyons in Fools for Scandal.
In that 1995 book, Lyons dissected the front-page reporting which invented the Whitewater scandal. The practices Lyons described in that book continue to this very day.
Tomorrow, we’ll take another look at some of the New York Times’ front-page reporting of the Fort Lee matter. (For amusement purposes, this episode is described as “Bridgegate.”)
In our view, little has changed since 1992, except the targets about whom the Times is picking and choosing its facts.
(Please note: That is a comment about the New York Times. It isn’t a comment about Christie, one way or the other.)
Front-page reporting in the Times has been amazingly bad. That said, the work on MSNBC has often been horrible too. Concerning that fact, it’s time to notice the changing of an old guard.
In the mid 1990’s, MSNBC and Fox News came on the air. They joined CNN, thereby creating a trio of cable “news channels.”
Fox didn’t pass CNN in the ratings until 2002. But by the time of Campaign 2000, a generation of mainstream broadcast pundits had been created.
ABC News had already given us Sam and Cokie. By the time of Campaign 2000, other pundits had joined them among our leading mainstream oracles.
CNN had given us Al and Margaret and Mark and Bob and also Pat Buchanan. Also: Jeff Greenfield, Kate O’Beirne and the emerging Tucker Carlson.
At MSNBC, we had been given Howard Fineman, who repeated whatever Chris said on Hardball. We also got Jonathan Alter.
We’re leaving out the conservative faction being developed at Fox. We’re also omitting the Sunday anchors—Schieffer and Russert and them.
Sometimes, these people did decent work. Much more often, their work was horrendous. For our money, Sam and Cokie’s clowning performance in late October 2000 stands out as one marker of an inane, broken age.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! “Dingell-Norwood” just sounded really funny!
We complained about this in real time. Your liberal heroes just sat there and watched this clowning—when they weren’t taking part.
For many people, Sam and Cokie came to be emblems of a certain kind of fatuous pseudo-punditry. But that whole generation of pundits is now largely gone from the air.
They’re being replaced by a new generation. On a career basis, a great deal has been at stake as these lifetime sinecures have been nailed down. If you don’t understand this fact, you don’t understand press culture.
As many other people have noted, Kornacki has stood out in his handling of the Fort Lee matter. When he discusses New Jersey politics, he rather plainly seems to know what he’s talking about.
You rarely see that on cable news channels—a person who knows what he’s talking about! Instead, we’d have to say that you’re seeing the rise of a new gang of Sam and Cokies.
On MSNBC, these new pseudo-journalists will often be taking your side. They won’t be mocking Big Democrats, as was the norm in the Clinton/Gore years, when Matthews set the standard for a repellent style of dishonest attack pseudo-journalism.
Instead of attacking the Clintons and Gore, this new group will be attacking Christie. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t Sam-and-Cokies. More specifically, it doesn’t mean that their journalism is any good.
At the New York Times, a new generation of fatuous scribes is replacing the founders of the newspaper's famous Dowdism. On the TV machine thingy, we’re seeing the rise of the new Sam and Cokies.
Their targets have changed, but their work is still poor. To cite that one example again, we’d say that Maddow plays the fool pretty much every night now.
Our impression? As long as she plays the fool our way, some of us simply can’t tell.
Tomorrow: New York Times front-page reporting