1996's Winners and Losers in the Press
by L. Brent Bozell III
November 12, 1996
Another long campaign is over. Now that the
inside-the-Beltway media sages have pronounced their winners and losers, what
say we analyze the job they did, for a change?
Winners: Pollster John Zogby and the Reuters News Service,
whose polls were regularly ignored, or ridiculed, throughout the campaign.
They consistently showed a smaller lead for Bill Clinton than did all the
other major media surveys. Zogby's last poll put the gap at 8.1 percent -- and
it ended up at 8.4.
Losers: The other media outlets, especially CNN-USA
Today-Gallup, and CBS-New York Times, whose inaccurate polls constantly put
the race at ridiculous gaps of more than 20 points.
Loser: CNN analyst Bill Schneider, who predicted a
Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives on the eve of the
Losers: CNN "Capital Gang" experts Al Hunt
("Helen Chenoweth, the militia momma, is toast"), Margaret Carlson
("Oh absolutely, toast, yeah") and Mark Shields ("Helen
Chenoweth better start working on her concession speech").
Winner: Their colleague Robert Novak ("Helen Chenoweth
is not toast"), same program.
Winners: The Washington Times and Wall Street Journal. Each
broke countless stories on Clinton administration scandals throughout the
Honorable Mention: The Los Angeles Times and The Washington
Post. Both broke last-minute stories on the Democratic National Committee's
very questionable fundraising practices abroad.
Winner: Jerry Seper of The Washington Times, who deserves a
Pulitzer Prize for breaking countless Clinton scandals, much to the
embarrassment of the rest of the so-called investigative news media.
Loser: Jerry Seper, who will never win a Pulitzer Prize for
the same reason.
Losers: The networks. Gone are the days of investigative
journalism -- at least while Democrats control the presidency. An internal
White House memo leaked to The Wall Street Journal lists -- count 'em -- 36
different scandals swirling around the administration. With all their news
programs, their "60 Minutes," "Datelines," and "Prime
Time Lives," not one major scandal was ever broken by the
networks. And even when scandals were broken by others, more often than not
the networks refused to report them on their newscasts.
Loser: Al D'Amato. Constantly accused of political
opportunism and shameless grandstanding by the media.
Winner: Anyone in the media who correctly accused D'Amato of
political opportunism and shameless grandstanding.
Winners: Sam Brownback, Helen Chenoweth, and Jesse Helms.
Not content to have Big Labor spend tens of millions to defeat them, the media
echoed the same "extremist," "far right," and
"radical conservative" themes in their own news stories. All won
Losers: Those who urged, with reporters cheering them on,
that the GOP abandon its pro-life platform. Two of those media darlings --
Pete Wilson and Arlen Specter, were demolished in the presidential campaign. A
third, Gov. Bill Weld, insisted, with media "experts" concurring,
the fight against the pro-life plank would help with the female vote -- and
then got 38 percent among women in his own race. A Richard Wirthlin poll for
the National Right to Life Committee told the tale once again: more people
voting on the abortion issue voted pro-life than pro-choice, and once again,
the media spiked the report.
Winners: The rare network investigators -- ABC's Brian Ross
(on the influence of Big Business and Big Labor in the campaign) and CNN's
Brooks Jackson (correcting the "cuts" claims of Democrats) --
without whom evening news coverage would be almost totally vacuous and
Losers: The networks' Election Night coverage. It was bad
enough that, armed with so much incorrect exit polling data (sorry, Sen. Dick
Swett), so many reporters suggested a Democratic takeover of the Senate was in
the realm of possibility. But this was followed then by the late-night,
what-does-it-all-mean analysis that was pure claptrap. From Tom Brokaw to
Bernie Shaw to so many others, the spin was (and continues to be) the public
voted for moderation, for centrism. Never mind that there isn't a shred of
evidence to bolster that claim. If, as these reporters have been saying for
months, this was a referendum on the Newt Gingrich revolution; and if, as they
told us all along, the House Republican freshmen were most vulnerable because
of this; and if, after all this and over $200 million thrown against them by
Big Labor, only 13 of 71 freshmen running for re-election (including two
moderates) were defeated -- isn't this a clear validation of their
Winners (and to them, a tip of the hat): Those who told the
truth about the media's pro-Clinton slant -- Bernard Goldberg of CBS and Sam
Donaldson of ABC. They saw their colleagues' blatant liberal-leaning coverage
and had the courage to wonder publicly if the so-called "news" media
are no longer observers, but active participants, in the political process.
Winner: Finally, David Brinkley. I hope future journalists
will look at this gracious man as a professional role model, who dedicated his
career to fairness and balance. And I don't care why he said what he said on
Election Night. It's about time someone said it.
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