Or at least, two reporters pretend: For years, we’ve been saying that our big newspapers ought to report about the work being done our cable “news” channels.
This morning, the New York Times takes our advice! The paper reports about MSNBC, the cable news channel they don’t seem to fear.
Michael Barbaro and Bill Carter do the reporting. As they start, their basic premise is wildly overstated:
BARBARO/CARTER (1/20/14): It was a match made in moderately minded Northeast Corridor heaven.Please.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey needed a TV network that would burnish his bipartisan bona fides and showcase his gleefully contrarian style. MSNBC craved a Republican who cut against the party grain and lit up the screen with his everyman-ish, Springsteen-loving spontaneity.
An on-air romance blossomed, forged over chummy strolls along the Jersey Shore and heart-to-hearts in the studio about everything from overeating to education, embodying the aisle-crossing aspirations of this partisan era.
As they continue, the reporters note that Christie is currently getting beaten up on MSNBC. In this passage, they pretend that this represents a jarring change in the channel’s approach:
BARBARO/CARTER: Whatever the network’s motivation, it is a jarring change for the New Jersey governor, long the subject of warm and laudatory coverage from the network’s hosts.Please.
Ms. Brzezinski called him “my friend,” her co-anchor Joe Scarborough called him “my main man,” and Chris Matthews referred to him, with the familiarity of a family member, as “the guy we like around here.”
Let’s stipulate that Mika and Joe may have been soft on Christie. Even the repurposed Matthews hasn’t been able to stop himself from cooing about this major Republican, who isn’t from the South.
But obviously, Christie hasn’t been “the subject of warm and laudatory coverage” from the bulk of MSNBC hosts. Only in the fabulist Times can you read such obvious bullroar.
That basic premise is absurd, like so many front-page premises in this ridiculous paper. That said, we were struck by some other themes advanced in this profile.
Where have we seen these themes before? Oh yeah! Right here at this site!
The reporters note the ratings gold Fort Lee has been for The Channel. They note “the near saturation coverage” the channel has given this topic.
Even as they praise Kornacki’s work, they quote him describing Fort Lee “as a great mystery story.” Skillfully, we told you that was the way the Fort Lee mess would be played.
They even quote Lawrence saying this of the coverage: “It’s easy.” He was certainly right about that!
Aside from its highly misleading premise, might we note two other problems with this front-page report?
First, Barbaro and Carter make little attempt to evaluate the quality of the channel’s near saturation coverage. Has the channel’s reporting made sense?
Within the modern guild, “journalists” don’t ask questions like that. People! Professional courtesy!
Beyond that, journalists almost never tell the truth about their own guild. We’ve told you that ever since the era the fellows misrepesent here:
BARBARO/CARTER: The rough patch in Mr. Christie’s relationship with the news media is especially striking given how assiduously he courts press attention. When Mr. Kornacki was a reporter in New Jersey, he recalled, he received personal emails from Mr. Christie, who was United States attorney at the time. Reporters have marveled at the access the governor has given them, including Jake Tapper of CNN, who declared that he had not experienced anything similar since John McCain’s famously freewheeling presidential campaign in 2000.Crackers, please! By law, pundits must pretend that they fawned to McCain in 1999 and 2000 because he was “freewheeling.”
In fact, they fawned to McCain because he was endlessly fawning to them. This was clear in the things he was constantly saying in their fawning profiles. Everybody knows this is true, and that it mustn’t be said.
This front-page report is built upon a massively overstated premise. What else could readers expect from the sillybill Times, mother of all Potemkins?
The role of the cherry-picked statement: At one point, Barbaro/Carter quote something Al Sharpton once said.
“I have some advice for all those Republicans trying to re-brand their party,” they quote Sharpton saying. “Watch Chris Christie.”
According to the reporters, this shows that “network figures have hailed [Christie] as a gutsy bipartisan hero and a role model for an obstructionist party in need of overhaul.” It's part of the “on-air romance.”
Does that statement really show that? The statement was made almost a year ago, after Christie appeared on Letterman. This is what Sharpton said after playing the Letterman tape:
SHARPTON (2/5/13): Now, I don’t agree with much of Christie’s politics, but he’s real. He can make fun of himself, and he’s not afraid to do the right thing. Like when he worked directly with President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He even praised the president days before the election.We’d call that a semi-dumb statement, not an “on-air romance.” That said, why did they quote Sharpton from almost a year ago?
Again now, I disagree with Governor Christie on the issues. And governor, if you’re ever serious about dieting, I know a guy that you can get some advice from. Call me.
Just a guess: because he hasn’t made any such statements in the eleven months since?