McCain wrongly accuses New York Times of partisanship

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The McCain campaign’s full cry last week over “fair” journalism pierced through the cataclysmal collapse of Wall Street, the symbolic center of the United States economy and financial integrity.

Steven Schmidt, senior aide to Sen. John McCain, accused The New York Times of unfairly favoring Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign through partial and adverse reporting of McCain and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The claim was primarily made in light of a recent Times article suggesting that McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist. According to a statement by Schmidt in a Washington Post article, The New York Times constantly attacks McCain and Palin, and is “not by any standard a journalistic organization.” He also labeled the leading media outlet as a “pro-Obama advocacy” organization, and insisted that its content be judged by Americans as such.

Okay. So, Sen. McCain, what I hear you saying is that you want fair treatment. So does fair treatment at the hands of the media mean a bolstering of the McCain campaign?

First of all, blaming the media does not cover the fact that McCain spread himself too thin in this presidential race. His attempts at degrading Obama during the crossfire of tit-for-tat commercials failed miserably. They damaged his ethos and earned him the reputation of a compulsive liar. Accusing Obama of encouraging sex education for minors and directing his “lipstick on a pig” analogy at Palin didn’t take him too far, either.

It boils down to this: John McCain does not know where to draw the line. So to cover this fact, he leaps at The New York Times with an immature, you-always-take-his-side-type attitude.

More importantly, The New York Times serves its readership, not the McCain campaign. Any large-scale media outlet like the Times maintains a responsibility to its audience’s intellectual needs, not to protect the image of any specific political party. The failure to echo an electoral campaign’s strategy and rhetoric does not nullify its existence. When there is something people need to know, the newspaper owes it to them to report on it. Not reporting an issue breaches journalism ethics.

I agree that the media is a key player in this presidential campaign. It is a voice that connects the presidential candidates to the voters, and its frame of objectivity strongly influences its audience’s psyche and thus their voting decisions. However, as long as there is sufficient evidence to support a claim that leans toward subjectivity, voicing it does not strip The New York Times or any other organization of its journalistic values. By alleging otherwise, the McCain campaign is not only trying to intimidate the press, but is also underestimating the intelligence of voters.

This isn’t really a question of journalistic integrity. The McCain campaign’s allegation is about the anti-McCain paranoia that is engulfing the Republican candidate. After being slammed on The View and disliked by the public for sinking too low in his commercials, McCain is on the defensive.

I wonder whether McCain would have pointed a finger at The New York Times had it published volumes of his heroism, or perhaps bellowed anti-Obama statements. In this case, would McCain still question the journalistic integrity of one of the major liberal newspapers in America? It is worth a thought.