The Sunday Week in Review cover story is "Media Bashing 101," from political personality reporter Mark Leibovich. A master of surface impressions (almost always skewed to the left, like his description of Al Gore as a "compelling" "pop culture icon"), Leibovich doesn't even try to dig into the conservative complaints about liberal media bias to check their validity, but merely assumed they are part of a cynical campaign tactic on the part of John McCain. Leibovich wrote from the site of the Republican National Convntion in St. Paul about conservative counterattacks against the media's fierce negative reaction to Sarah Palin:
Sarah Palin's national opening last week was judged an unqualified success by the media elite, even though much of her debut speech Wednesday night was devoted to whacking the media elite.
"I've learned quickly, these past few days, that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone," Governor Palin of Alaska said, drawing the wildest applause of what would be the raucous night of the Republican convention.
Ms. Palin capped off a succession of speakers, - Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee - who took turns pummeling their favorite target, the news media, which in turn gave the news media the chance to talk about its favorite subject all week (the news media)..In other words, the bashers and bashees have been through this and know the drill. There was an almost homey familiarity to the ritual. And despite the hot words from the podium, it was hard to find a journalist last week who felt any unusual sense of siege or discomfort....Everyone knew their roles, recited their lines, and it was all somewhat reminiscent of the old cartoon in which Sam the sheepdog spends all day trying to thwart Ralph the wolf from stealing the sheep - and then, at day's end, the two adversaries exchange pleasantries, punch a clock and head home....But media bashing may work better in dashes (like paprika) - nothing too relentless or overwhelming. It wasn't enough to get Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole elected in 1964 and 1996 and George H. W. Bush re-elected in 1992. They were three of the noisiest in their complaints about bias.
Yet Leibovich admitted to one case of media bias claiming (accurately) that Republican John McCain had once been a media darling:
McCain's campaign provides an interesting test case. He is something of a media Frankenstein in his own right, a creation who has over the years benefited greatly from friendly relations with - and coverage from - the press. This coziness has brought Mr. McCain suspicion and derision from some Republican colleagues in the Senate. (That's when they're not asking him to put in a good word for them with the Sunday show bookers.)
Today's generation of Republican media bashers have blogs, the Web, YouTube, blast e-mails, BlackBerry-alerts and a whole lot of other tools and outlets their forebears never enjoyed. That list also includes - some would say - Fox News, the highest-rated cable news channel and heavily favored by conservatives.
For an antidote to Leibovich, media columnist David Carr actually did some of the on-the-ground reporting that his political reporter colleague Leibovich couldn't be bothered with, in Monday's "Drawing a Bead On the Press." He opened with this unflattering look at his journalistic colleagues:
Before Gov. Sarah Palin came flying in from the wilds of Alaska for the Republican convention in St. Paul, there was a lot of sniggering in media rooms and satellite trucks about her beauty queen looks and rustic hobbies, and the suggestion that she was better suited to be a calendar model for a local auto body shop than a holder of the second-highest office in the land.
Ms. Palin, unwilling to be rendered as a caribou-skinning cartoon, stepped to the microphone on Wednesday and punched back.
In the press galleries at the convention, journalists wrinkled their noses in disgust when Piper, Ms. Palin's youngest daughter, was filmed kitty-licking her baby brother's hair into place. But to many Americans - including some I talked to in the convention hall - that looked like family church on Sunday, evidence of good breeding and sibling regard.
At the end, Carr seemed at an uncharacteristic loss for words when politely confronted by Republican alternate delegate Julie O'Hara about New York Times bias:
Like a lot of delegates at the Xcel - and the woman whom they nominated as John McCain's running mate - Ms. O'Hara was fired up by all the sudden energy, but a bit suspicious of those who were there to cover it.
"Conservatives have a bad history with The New York Times," she said, looking at my press ID, still smiling and still very friendly. "How can I be sure that you won't take my words and twist them to suit some agenda that you already have?"
Her friends from Montana leaned in and enjoyed the spectacle as I stammered my way through a response. I'm working on an answer because I don't think it is the last time that question is going to come up.