NBC News political director Chuck Todd, singing the oldest self-flagellating hymn in the media book, laments his colleagues' lack of awareness of the good people between the coasts. Todd is ordinarily a smarter and more reasonable guy than your typical pundit, but this is just about the dumbest thing I've heard all week:
Nothing chaps my ass more than New York-centric coverage of American politics. Because its through the New York prism that we incorrectly cover American politics 60% of the time. To me, the ideological bias in the media really hasn’t been there in a long time. But what is there that people mistake for ideological bias is geographic bias. It’s seeing everything through the lens of New York and Washington.
So, for instance, I’ve always thought we collectively as the media covered this recession horribly, because the two markets that actually weathered it better than almost any in the country were New York and Washington. That didn’t mean we didn’t cover it, but we only covered it statistically. We didn’t cover it from the kitchen table. Imagine if we still had news bureaus in Denver, in Miami--these places were it was really front line, front and center.
I think sometimes there are too many people who cover politics that don’t understand the grassroots of the Republican party, and part of it is motivated by this anti-New York and Washington bias, if you will. Part of what animates them is, if they’re pushing it, I’m against it. But also that we don’t understand their day to day lives. That we don’t respect the fact that they go to church twice a week. That when we look our noses down upon Wal-Mart, they see it as the only place to shop.
Too many people mistake ideological bias for what really is a matter of geography.
His ass is chapped! But really: what the hell is he talking about? I watch the media pretty closely, and I'm afraid I missed all the reports over the last four years about how the recession was really no big deal and we all ought to go about our business. The fact is that there have been thousands upon thousands of stories from the TV networks, from the big national newspapers, from newsmagazines, and from every other news source about how the recession affected ordinary people, that "kitchen table" coverage Todd is talking about it. I don't know how Chuck missed it all, because his own network was pretty vigorous about it. That isn't to say there weren't weaknesses in that coverage, but the idea that big media ignored the recession is just absurd.
And as for the idea that the country's vast middle and the grassroots of the Republican party are being ignored, are you kidding me? I've just watched five straight days of almost wall-to-wall tornado coverage on NBC News, where Chuck works. You know who doesn't care about that? People in New York and Washington. How many zillions of stories were there about the rise of the Tea Party? Were they crowded out by complimentary pieces about the urban dwellers, union members, single people, and racial minorities that make up the Democratic party's base? No.
The truth is that the New York/Washington media doesn't ignore the "heartland," they pander to it relentlessly. The Diane Sawyers of the world may not shop at Wal-Mart, but they'll never tire of telling you that the people who do are the real Americans, the backbone of the country, the people dripping with "values" and small-town virtue, the ones who look you in the eye and give it to you straight, the ones who care for their neighbors and love their country. If I had a nickel for every time the New York/Washington media explained to me the moral superiority of the heartland, I'd drive a couple of Cadillacs and have friends who own NASCAR teams.