As the 2016 presidential sails into the sunset, one fact ought to concern Americans who rely on an independent press for information – a good many reporters were not independent at all. They worked hand-in-glove with the Clinton campaign against both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Consider the emails released by Wikileaks — emails that would have remained secret, but now condemn a number of reporters and their flags.
• Maggie Haberman formerly of Politico and now with the New York Times. Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman wrote: “We have had her tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed.” If a campaign says they’ve never been disappointed in the work of a journalist covering them, then it is safe to say that that reporter wasn’t doing a very good job for readers.
• New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich sent Clinton campaigner Jennifer Palmieri portions of his interview with Hillary seeking the “option to use the following” parts of his interview. Palmieri edited the interview and sent it back. The obedient Mr. Leibovich emailed back: “Pleasure doing business.” Ms. Palmieri should have shared a byline with Mr. Leibovich with that kind collaboration.
• Boston Globe senior staffer Marjorie Pritchard offered overly friendly advice on how Clinton could best coordinate an op-ed piece with Globe news coverage. “It would be good to get it in on Tuesday, when she is in New Hampshire,” Pritchard told the Clinton campaign. “That would give her a big presence on Tuesday with the piece and on Wednesday with the news story. Please let me know.” Report the news, don’t coordinate the news, Ms. Pritchard.
• A Washington Post reporter was persuaded by Clinton aide Christina Reynolds to do a critical story about Cindy McCain, Sen. John McCain’s wife. Paul Begala wrote Reynolds that “this was truly outstanding! Great work!” Again, the Post’s editors should assign stories, not Ms. Reynolds.
• Writer John Harwood, a CNBC correspondent and a New York Times contributor, maintained a regular (and almost staff-like) email conversation with Clinton campaign head John Podesta. He once offered this advice to the campaign: “Ben Carson could give you real trouble in a general (election).” He attached video of an interview he did with Carson. How Mr. Harwood became a debate moderator is scary given this kind of behavior. He should never get the honor again.
• CNN contributor Donna Brazile (and now acting head of the Democratic National Committee) tipped off the Clinton campaign to questions that were to be asked in a debate with Bernie Sanders. “From time to time I get the questions in advance,” she wrote to the campaign, then told the campaign to be ready for a question on the death penalty. CNN parted ways with Brazile after the revelation. She’s still with the DNC, amazingly enough.
It’s all ugly stuff. Not every reporter sold their soul during the campaign, but it’s reasonable to believe that there were a heckuva lot more who just didn’t find their journalistic sins immortalized in a hacked Wikileak email. So, let’s not sugarcoat it: Our national media did a terrible job in the last presidential campaign. Is it too much to ask that American news organizations and reporters keep an arm’s length from campaigns and report the news, not root for it?
GOOSE & GANDER
And while we’re pointing out deficiencies in the American press, let’s make one more quick point: The press is selective and inconsistent in story selection.
Donald Trump has been president elect for a little over 40 days and virtually every big national media outlet has reported in critical fashion the fact that he has not attended all of the intelligence briefings since the election.
“Trump not very interested in intelligence briefings” – USA Today.
“Trump has attended only two intelligence briefings” – NBC News.
I’m fine with that reporting. Intelligence briefings seem important. Yet, that same concern from the media did not apply to President Obama.
In his first term of office, President Obama skipped daily intelligence briefings 56 percent of the time. Did you know that? Where were our information caretakers then?
I think I speak for a lot of folks when I say just give us the news, consistently and fairly. We can do the math from there.
(Sherman Frederick is a founder of Battle Born Media and a longtime Nevadan.)