It’s a time to worry.
As if it didn’t have enough problems already, the American press is facing an election-year crisis. Long kept afloat by peddling shock, distortion, and outright calumny about our finest public servants, it now must ask itself: who’s going to buy newspapers that suck up to both candidates?
Just today I find John Kass of the Tribune labeling Barack Obama “the gentle faun of American politics, supported for years by a compliant, yearning media eager to portray him as a reformer.” And Arianna Huffington at huffingtonpost.com fretting about “the mainstream media’s ongoing membership in the John McCain Protection Society.” Says Huffington, “Every time McCain screws up, the media jump all over themselves to make it better, as if grandpa had said something embarrassing at the dinner table and it needed to be smoothed over as quickly as possible.”
Mind you, a presidential showdown between Bambi and Grandpa Walton figures to be a classic, especially if Bambi’s running mate is Scarlett O’Hara (Maureen Dowd in the Tuesday NYT), and Zeb Walton’s is Mary Poppins (Dowd again.) But, face it, both Kass and Huffington have a point. What if it’s more than a point — what if they’re basically right? Well, rest assured that Kass is no acolyte of Obama’s, or Huffington of McCain’s. They’ve put us on notice — not that this fall’s coverage will be long on rainbows and bluebirds and short on grit, but that the campaign itself conceivably could be lost in the cut and slash of media waging a civil war.