Earlier versions of this column, including in the print edition of Monday's Washington Post, misstated the percentage of news coverage of President Obama from May to mid-August that, according to a new study, was negative. The study found that 57 percent of the coverage was negative, compared to 43 percent that was positive.
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Howard Kurtz's Media Notes: Mainstream News Outlets Miss White House Resignation
In the Jones case, there is little question that the traditional media botched the story of an Obama administration official who, wittingly or otherwise, lent his name to those who believe that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney deliberately allowed thousands of Americans to be slaughtered. Some conservatives accused journalists of liberal bias; it is just as likely that their radar malfunctioned, or that they collectively dismissed Beck as a rabble-rouser.
New York Times Managing Editor Jill Abramson told readers online that the paper was "a beat behind on this story" and that while the Washington bureau was short-staffed during a holiday week, "we should have been paying closer attention."
The follow-up news pieces focused on the administration's failure to vet Jones's background. Perhaps the media bloodhounds should be just as curious why they failed to sniff out a story that ended with a White House resignation.
Public respect for the media has plunged to a new low, with just 29 percent of Americans saying that news organizations generally get their facts straight.
That figure is the lowest in more than two decades of surveys by the Pew Research Center, which also found just 26 percent saying news outlets are careful that their reporting is not politically biased. And 70 percent say news organizations try to cover up their mistakes. That amounts to a stunning vote of no confidence.
The new wrinkle is that Democrats are increasingly unhappy with a profession long viewed as liberal, with 59 percent saying news reporting is often inaccurate, up from 43 percent two years ago.
Of course, many respondents view such matters through their own political prism. While 73 percent of Republicans say the media are fair to the Obama administration, just 25 percent said that about the Bush administration's coverage four years ago. For Democrats, 68 percent approved of the Bush coverage in 2005, while 54 percent say the press is fair to Obama.
A partisan split is equally evident in the assessment of news outlets. Among Democrats, 81 percent have a positive view of network news, 75 percent for CNN, 60 percent for MSNBC and 43 percent for Fox News. Among Republicans, 72 percent have a favorable view of Fox, 55 percent for network news, 44 percent for CNN and 34 percent for MSNBC.
While most weren't familiar enough with the New York Times to express an opinion, 39 percent of Democrats and just 16 percent of Republicans view the paper favorably.
Back to Earth
If you have the impression that President Obama is losing his media glow, you're right.
While his coverage in the first 100 days was 59 percent positive, a new study says, that dropped to 43 percent positive -- and 43 percent negative -- in the next 112 days, through mid-August. In short, reporters have noticed that the candidate of hope has run smack into Washington reality.
Under the umbrella of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, researchers for George Mason University and California's Chapman University examined the nightly newscasts, the New York Times, Time and Newsweek. The president's policies drew the toughest scrutiny -- 42 percent positive coverage -- while in personal and other evaluations, the assessments were 68 percent positive. The administration fared least well on terrorism and Guantanamo Bay (26 percent positive) and best on the financial stimulus (47 percent positive).
The most favorable evaluations appeared in front-page Times stories (61 percent positive), while ABC's "World News" was the most positive newscast (53 percent positive) and "NBC Nightly News" the least (45 percent positive). Separately, the study found that Obama's coverage was just 23 percent positive on the news segments of "Special Report," Fox News's Washington newscast.
Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."