Lessons to be Learned When Politicians Attack the Media


Politicians who gripe about the media should be taken with a grain of salt. Because they weren’t complaining about agendas and getting the story wrong when the media wrote positive stories about them.

On the other hand, Fox News didn’t really do any positive stories about Obama, so perhaps it’s not a typical love-hate relationship…since there was never any love to begin with.

But I think we can learn some interesting lessons from what’s going on now.

  1. Media on both sides of the aisle (whether they admit that or not) find the fact that Obama thinks Fox News is biased is a great story. The Times has written about it extensively (“Fox’s Volley With Obama Intensifying). So has the Wall St. Journal. The latest entry is from the Journal: “Obama Is Right About Fox News.”
  2. Fox News LOVES the controversy, becoming the Dick Cavett of News by making itself part of the story as I blogged earlier in the month.
  3. The public actually doesn’t care about the story at all. Ok, I can’t back this up with a specific survey, but with the two wars, the economy, the foreclosures, etc., it’s difficult to imagine that most people care one way or the other.
  4. Obama’s claim that Fox is biased is actually silly because no one really thinks it isn’t. Instead, conservatives think of it as an alternative to liberal media.
  5. Fox’s claim that it’s being bullied by the president is equally absurd because they constantly find ways to play up small, negative stories about Obama (the Town Hall shouters were promoted and reported by Fox) — and because Fox is able to play the valiant hero to its base, saying it’s able to take on the president.

In the end, the White House needs to back off, because it’s providing the oxygen to keep this fire burning. and it does the administration no good.

So the lessons:

  1. Be careful of who you fight with. The old adage was never start a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Now, you no longer have to worry about the ink, it’s the pixels. And Fox has a lot of ’em.
  2. Decide what’s a reasonable outcome. What could the Obama administration think could be a positive resolution to this situation? Fox chief, Roger Ailes, isn’t going to slap his forehead, and say, “Y’know what, Barack is right, we need to deliver truly balanced news.”
  3. Develop a plan to achieve that reasonable outcome. Not sure there could be a plan — other than to not engage with Fox. That’s still a plan.
  4. Enlist partners to make the case. Fox has done that. Not sure that the White House has.
  5. Sometimes the smartest decision in a fight is not to start the war in the first place. I learned that lesson from “War Games,” and it still seems like a smart line.

Are there any lessons you think I missed? Let me know.

Meanwhile, check out “Veteran reporter’s 5 lessons for Obama” by Helen Thomas.

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