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I have written here often on the failures of old media, so you might be interested in my article posted today at Mother Jones on some of the most lowlights of media coverage of the 2008 campaign.

As I note in the opening to it, there were so many, Bill Kristol only made the final list once.   Not even the Joe the Plumber coverage made the worst seven.

An excerpt follows. It is all drawn from my new book on the campaign, which sharply hits the old media while fully backing the "new media" influence and the fact campaigns in American will never be the same.

Just three of the examples:

Remember "Bowling-gate"? While campaigning in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama threw a few gutter balls attempting to bowl. Suddenly many in the media were depicting him as a wimp and out of step with America, even though his skills at playing a far more popular sport (basketball) suggested he was actually the best athlete to run in years. Joe Scarborough at MSNBC opined that Americans want a real macho man in the White House and that Obama was "prissy." Maureen Dowd actually referred to it as Obama's "bowling debacle."

Elizabeth Edwards, with so much else on her plate, was driven to write an op-ed for the Times titled "Bowling 1, Health Care 0." In a column, I dubbed it "the return of gutter politics."

At the end of May, appearing on Fox News on Sunday, Liz Trotta, a former editor with the Washington Times and broadcast TV journalist, was asked by the host, Eric Shawn, about the latest Clinton controversy-—Hillary's remark that people demanding she leave the race ought to remember that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June of 1968—that is, late in the campaign. Trotta replied, "And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, uh Obama. Well, both, if we could." She laughed. The host, Shawn, commented: "Talk about how you really feel!" Trotta offered a weak apology the next day. All was forgiven....

Nothing was more embarrassing for the TV and cable pundits during the fall campaign than the fact that their scoring of the three presidential debates and the single VP debate were regularly undermined by the verdicts of focus groups and instant (scientific) polls. Time and again, most pundits scored a debate even or nearly so, only to discover that in each case the Democrat was overwhelmingly pronounced the victor by voters who watched.

Following the conclusion of each of the four debates, the McCain-Palin "bounce" would last barely 30 minutes—until the focus group/poll results came in. Give the major media outfits credit for this corrective innovation. Without such polls and focus groups, McCain would have been awarded the "Big Mo" or at least the "Slow Mo" by out-of-touch pundits.

During the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, many commentators lowered the bar for the Alaska governor. David Brooks blurted out at a panel discussion in New York City that Palin was unqualified for her post. He would not say so, though, in his column. Rich Lowry of The National Review admitted on the magazine's website that he "sat up a little straighter" on his sofa, aroused by Palin's smile and wink—and claimed that he saw "starbursts." Other pundits jumped on Joe Biden for referring to people in Bosnia as "Bosniaks." Turned out he was correct.

And at the first Obama/McCain debate, Tom Brokaw noted that he had received tens of thousands of questions donated by voters—and then he asked the candidates some of the most obvious ones of the entire campaign.


Greg Mitchell's new book is "Why Obama Won." It's the first "progressive" book on the 2008 campaign and has a lot of DailyKos-derived material.

Originally posted to GregMitch on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 06:05 PM PST.

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