Obama notices forced neutrality in media

OBAMA NOTICES FORCED NEUTRALITY IN MEDIA…. President Obama appeared at a town-hall forum at the DNC yesterday, talking to Organizing for America volunteers and party supporters at an event that was broadcast online. The discussion covered a lot of ground, but there was something the president said about the media that stood out for me.

An activist in Arizona noted in a question via Twitter that there are “too many lies about health insurance reform,” and she asked, “Where are these lies from?”

The president, smiling, said, “[W]e know where these lies are coming from. I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret. If you just flick channels and then stop on certain ones, then you’ll see who’s propagating this stuff.” The audience laughed, because there wasn’t any doubt as to which “channel” Obama was referring to.

More importantly, though, this led the president to talk a little about the flaw in so much of American political journalism. Specifically with regards to the “death panel” nonsense, Obama explained:

“…I have to say, part of the reason it spreads is the way reporting is done today. If somebody puts out misinformation, ‘Obama’s Creating Death Panels,’ then the way the news report comes across is: ‘Today such-and-such accused President Obama of putting forward death panels. The White House responded that that wasn’t true.’ And then they go on to the next story. And what they don’t say is, ‘In fact, it isn’t true.’

“You know, it’s fine to have a debate back and forth — he said, she said — except when somebody else is just not even telling remotely the truth. Then you should say in your reports, ‘Oh, and by the way, that’s just not true.’

“But that doesn’t happen often enough.”

That’s true, it doesn’t. I don’t doubt many reporters heard this and cringed — Obama is trying to tell them how to do their jobs? — but the problem of “forced neutrality” in political reporting deserves all the attention it can get.

Usually, it’s bloggers saying things like this. It was nice to hear a president making the same argument.