Media Coverage of Clinton
* The Times is to be commended on its series by David Shaw exploring the media coverage of President Clinton (Sept. 15-17). As a lifelong registered Republican, I chose to vote for Bill Clinton in the last election due to the ultra-conservative platform adopted by the Republican Party and the promise of change from Clinton.
While I do not totally agree with many of the new proposals put forth by the President, I have been appalled by the media’s relentless negative coverage of everything he has tried to do. The frivolous attention to the “Hollywood haircut” and negatively biased coverage seemed grossly unfair to a President just starting out.
I found Shaw’s carefully researched articles both interesting and enlightening, and hope the media people will re-examine their motives in future reporting.
* Reading Shaw’s articles concerning media coverage of the Clinton Administration compared to just-past Republican administrations, I came to the startling realization that, according to Shaw, ego, personality and style are more important to whether a candidate or sitting President receives favorable coverage than his stands on the issues. If that is true, the media are not doing their job.
I disagree strongly with Shaw’s statement that the American public has become more apathetic and cynically inclined since Watergate. I think people were just as cynical and apathetic in the 1950s.
However, the notion that personality and the egos of the White House press corps are what determine coverage is an amazing allegation.
* It’s obvious that the media overcompensated in their negative coverage of President Clinton’s first months in office. After all, this is the same media which failed to report the excesses and ethical lapses overflowing from the Reagan/Bush years (e.g., Iran/Contra, the S&L; debacle, the folly of “Star Wars,” etc.) until they were too big to ignore. Now we see the “bravery” of the media in exposing such moral outrages as Nannygate, Haircutgate and other teapots overflowing with tempests.
Now that spin doctor supreme David Gergen is in control, we see articles such as these wherein the media attempt to re-examine their rush to judgment. Such attempts will only last until the next “scandal” breaks. Don’t believe it? Just ask Michael and Heidi!
* Congratulations to Shaw and The Times for your about-time and courageous series on covering Clinton, but it must be said that the story only reports what a great many people have realized for a long time.
One question remains. Where were the editors when the distortions of Clinton-bashing were being published? Are they so in awe of the glamorous White House reporters that they cannot change a single word, let alone question a story, or, God forbid, reject it?
ROBERT A. LISTON
* Congratulations on your wonderful story on the coverage of the Clintons (Sept. 15). Thanks for the mention of my original song “Everything Happens to Me,” which I wrote for Frank Sinatra some years ago. Perhaps in the next four years (sooner, I hope), Hillary and Bill might be humming another song of mine written for Sinatra . . . same period . . . called “Let’s Get Away From It All.”
* Your premise that Clinton has been skewered by a hostile press since his candidacy is laughable. No President I can remember (I am 40) has been more coddled and thrown “softball” questions on a consistent basis than has Clinton at all levels of the press.
* Thank you for Shaw’s excellent article on the media’s resentment toward Clinton (Sept. 17). I have always wondered how journalists who failed to properly investigate national scandals like JFK’s assassination, CIA abuses, Watergate and BCCI, could report so “diligently” on Clinton’s $200 haircut or connect him with the Waco disaster. Let’s not forget that in only eight months Clinton has tackled the big issues that previous presidents have ignored, and every American should be grateful to him.
* The Times deserves the highest praise for what I predict will be an award-winning report on the barrage of attacks on Clinton by American newspapers, radio and television.
Let us hope your readers keep this in mind the next time our conservative friends tell us of “the bias of the liberal media.” You remember the liberal media? They’re the several hundred radio station owners who carry the Rush Limbaugh show.
* After reading your series on the press coverage of Clinton, I’m sold on term limits--for journalists.