The Politics Of Whining

Yesterday the Sunday news shows were largely focused on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his staff’s decision to shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge in order to exact some kind of political retribution on a New Jersey mayor.

Some conservatives reacted by counting how many minutes the shows devoted to the New Jersey story or by comparing how much air time and how many column inches have been devoted to “Bridgegate” as opposed to incidents like the Benghazi killings or the IRS targeting conservative organizations. They contend that the news media is biased and that Republican scandals always get more attention than Democratic scandals do.

This kind of reaction is just whining, and it’s neither attractive nor convincing. Both parties do it. When the news media was reporting every day on the disastrous rollout of healthcare.gov, Democrats were doing the same thing and arguing that the media was ignoring the positive things accomplished by the Affordable Care Act. It’s a juvenile response to the news media doing its job.

The amount of coverage a story receives is largely a function of factors that have nothing to do with politics. The George Washington bridge incident has all the elements of a great story — a powerful politician, venal and misbehaving staff members, an initial cover-up, and average Americans being inconvenienced by some crass political power play. There is footage of traffic jams to be shown, angry and easy-to-find people to be interviewed, and a contrite governor’s press conference to cover. The same is true with the Obamacare website story: there are good visuals, lots of individual stories to tell, and obvious story lines to follow, like how did this happen and how much did it cost and who screwed up. Ask yourself which story is easier to cover — the New Jersey bridge closure or the shootings in faraway and dangerous Libya — and you’ll get a good sense of which story will in fact get more coverage.

Modern politicians always seem to have an excuse and always look for someone else to blame. Whining about news coverage apparently is part of the playbook, but I can’t believe it works. Whining is pathetic, not persuasive.

3 thoughts on “The Politics Of Whining

  1. “juvenile response to the media doing its job…which story is easier to cover?” So the media is doing its job when it covers the easiest story to report on? I beg to differ. The media does its job when it reports in an unbiased manner the most important news of the day, regardless of the difficulty in doing so. Perhaps there should be two completely different types of media: true news media, with a Sgt. Friday approach “just the facts ,
    maam” and the mass media which can titillate with stories about Kim, Snooki, the Golden Globes, and what’s her face who used to be the sweet young thing on the Disney Channel and has transmorphed into the vile “twerking” thing on national tv. Just a thought.

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    • That’s a fair point. I think the conspiracy-minded folks who believe that politics is behind everything ignore the human factor in reporting, however. The fact is, the New Jersey bridge story is just easier to report on than, say, the Benghazi killings. Although part of the difference in column inches devoted to the two stories may be due to bias on the part of the news media, the lion’s share in my view is attributable to reporters having a juicy story right on their doorstep.

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