Hillary Clinton Should Stop Blaming The Media

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Even though Hillary Clinton revived her flagging campaign with a stirring victory over Barack Obama Tuesday night in New Hampshire, she didn't win a lot of friends in the media.

Memo to Hillary: You shouldn't assign blame to reporters because you were unhappy with your press coverage.

Instead, you should try to understand why Sen. Barack Obama has become the press corps' darling. In only a few weeks, the Illinois senator has transformed himself from doormat to odds-on favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination. But the media aren't behind his ascent.

Blame the media

It's the oldest trick in the book of politics: When things go against you, blame the saps with microphones and notebooks. The public hates the media anyway, so they're convenient scapegoats, right?

As the New York Times noted Tuesday: "Mrs. Clinton took up the theme today in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America.' 'They are obviously in some kind of a buddy system here, and that's fine. For both Senator Edwards and [Barack] Obama, they've been given pretty much a free ride, and that's fine,' Mrs. Clinton said. 'But at some point the free ride ends -- maybe it ends now, maybe it ends in a month, maybe it ends in the general election. You cannot be elected president if you do not withstand the tough questions.'"

OK, but didn't many of us flat out declare you the Democratic nominee (before Oprah Winfrey flexed her political muscle and endorsed Obama)?

The media haven't been giving Obama a free ride. In fact, they were just as blindsided as you, Hillary Clinton, when it came to Obama's comeback at the Iowa caucus last week.

Look at your own errors, Ms. Clinton, and quit taking potshots at reporters.

Failed news junkies

Admittedly, I'm an exceptionally well-read and opinionated news junkie who (obviously) doesn't know anything about politics.

How else can I explain the fact that I and so many of my media colleagues were blindsided by the Obama juggernaut, which took shape before his victory over Clinton and John Edwards in Iowa?

The Question, as the campaign moves along, is: Will the media learn from our mistakes?

I believe that journalists simply don't like it when upstarts like Obama or Mike Huckabee come along seemingly out of nowhere. Journalists have their foibles, too. We think we media folks should be the ones to anoint a candidate as the winner. We only trust the wisdom of what we say and write.

Sure, Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential hopes aren't dead. Who knows? She may well follow the example set in 1992 by her husband Bill, the self-appointed Comeback Kid.

Taplin's tale

Jonathan Taplin, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, isn't surprised that a) Obama has surged or b) the media missed the early signs of his rampage in the polls.

Taplin is accustomed to spotting stars in the making. . In the early 1970s, Taplin produced a film called "Mean Streets" that was directed by a then-unknown but talented New York filmmaker named Martin Scorsese. (The two later worked together on "The Last Waltz," a film about The Band's farewell concert in 1976.)

For Taplin, the key to Obama's rise was his unique ability to connect with young voters, who hadn't been inspired by a presidential candidate since Bill Clinton occupied the White House. Taplin has been blogging on this theme. .

"The students have been into politics more than most people think they have," Taplin told me by phone a few days ago. "The polls didn't talk to people who only have cell phones -- a huge demographic, and not just kids who are in college."

The media should learn some valuable lessons from what happened in Iowa.

"We have assumed that there is a conventional wisdom," Taplin continued.

Sometimes, reporters fail to see what is directly in ront of their eyes.

"Barack is an unbelievably skilled politician with a world-class team. He's not Howard Dean," Taplin said. "The media didn't understand that Hillary was the wrong candidate at the wrong time. ... They couldn't see what was really going on the ground."

Ultimately, many reporters were guilty of falling into a journalistic trap.

"They were cynical," Taplin said. "They thought the Obama followers wouldn't vote."

Taplin had been telling me for months that Obama was going to rebound. I had criticized Obama in this space in October 2006 for delivering an uninspired talk to magazine bigwigs in Arizona. But I misjudged him. .

I should've recognized that Obama was probably a little off his game because his discussion occurred one day after he appeared on "Meet the Press" and announced that he might be a presidential candidate. Naturally, Obama couldn't have been at his best 24 hours (and a few time zones) removed from such a momentous experience.

"I felt it on my campus -- months ago," Taplin said. "It was 'Obama Fever' at USC. There were lots of kids out there who were excited."

Hillary Clinton would be wise to tap into that kind of enthusiasm, instead of blaming the media for her problems.

: Should Hillary Clinton blame the media?

: Sports announcers sound foolish when they gush over an athlete who gives his or her all or, implausibly, "gives 110%" (which is impossible to do; you do the math). Isn't it a player's job to work hard and hustle?

to with something to prove:

"Thank you for the article on the three teetering magazines. BusinessWeek and SI , in particular, have lost their way. I picked up my latest copy of BW, a mere 70 pages deep, and could not find an article of substance. At least their old cheerleading pieces had nuggets of information that were useful. The irony is that, with information so ubiquitous, the one competitive advantage that could exist is strong journalism, something they both were historically strong in. Here's hoping that either they or someone else picks up the torch soon."

-- Gregory Toppe

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By Jon Friedman
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