Reality journalism: Keeping up with the candidates

The coverage of 2016’s crop of candidates illustrates the primacy of subjective, opinion journalism. Do samples culled from publications and websites during the past three months reveal whether or not they propel readers to see the crop of candidates from both parties clearly, or at least more clearly than the veil of objective neutrality permits?

Good Clinton v. bad Clinton

GEORGE SALAMON / Writing about Marie Antoinette, Judith Thurman commented in a 2006 article in the New Yorker that the woman famous for a remark she never uttered (“Let them eat cake”) is “periodically reviled or celebrated.” The same could be said about the media’s treatment of Hillary Clinton since she stepped into the national limelight as Bill Clinton’s wife during his 1992 bid for the presidency. Now that she is campaigning for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, many publications and websites devote much of their coverage to one or the other of these familiar approaches. Recent opinion pieces in the online publications of the liberal New Republic and the conservative Washington Free Beacon provide a sort of “comfort food,” the first for Clinton admirers and the second for Clinton detractors. But neither provides much food for thought based on solid information, history and context.

Clinton courts the heartland

By GEORGE SALAMON / Soon after Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy on April 12 for the 2016 presidential race, Rebecca Traister reported for the New Republic: “So what could possibly go wrong? Everything. Anything. Anything and everything. Hillary Clinton has loomed so powerfully in the American consciousness for so long that it’s hard to remember how delicate, how combustible, how ultimately improbable the project of electing her president is likely to be.” Traister paid too little attention to Clinton’s individual flaws that could propel “anything” and “everything” to go wrong.

When bullets fly: Hillary Clinton’s and Brian Williams’ tales of war

By GEORGE SALAMON / “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” – Hiram W. Johnson, U.S. Senator. The former FLOTUS, Secretary of State and U.S. Senator and leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2016 Hillary Clinton and Brian Williams, intrepid reporter and anchor for NBC’s Nightly News, ignored Johnson’s timeless admonition when it came to telling brief encounters with warfare. When caught, as Clinton was back in 1996 and Williams for his rendition of a 2003 experience in the war with Iraq this week, both resorted to “mis”-words to explain: Clinton “misspoke” and Williams “misremembered.” The American public may not buy into their explanations. But why should it matter that the potential next president was tripped up by her tongue and a national media figure betrayed by his memory? Because perhaps they weren’t, and their use of euphemisms for telling tall tales, aka lying, have by now become the norm in much of our political life and in journalism. We may expect from figures in these two areas what we used to expect primarily from used car salesmen: a playful “misspeaking” or “misremembering” about the products or services they’re convincing us to buy.

Journalism for the incurious at the New York Times

By GEORGE SALAMON / Edward Klein has long been nemesis to Hillary Clinton. Now his latest hit on the Clintons, “Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas” has just overtaken Hillary Clinton’s memoir “Hard Choices” in sales on the Times’ own bestseller list. How mortifying that Klein’s dishing of “implausible” dirt on both families was outselling the former Secretary of State’s own display of grand vision and noble compassion the Clintons sell as the raison d’ etre for past and future service in public life. It was too much for the Times’ reporters Amy Chozick and Alexandra Alter. In the second paragraph they label passages in Klein’s bestseller “implausible,” but don’t show us what makes them “implausible.”

Anybody here seen America’s far left? The New York Times has!

BY GEORGE SALAMON / What an enticing headline the New York Times featured on Page 1 Sept. 30: “Warren is Now Hot Ticket On the Far Left.” The story, written by Jonathan Martin, told readers how Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has become the darling and favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 among America’s “far left,” and thus a threat to the party’s centrist front-runner, Hillary Clinton.