Thursday, October 29, 2020

Fear 'n' balanced on the campaign trail

 Looks like we have a campaign reporting trend here at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network -- or at least, with two occurrences in three days, the end of the beginning of a trend. It works like this: First (Monday morning, above), proclaim that the old guy with the mask is staying home for the day (a favorite theme of late) while your own energetic hero is burning up the old campaign trail:

The November election is just about one week away, but Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is in Delaware with no campaign events scheduled on Monday, even as President Trump heads to Pennsylvania looking to erase his opponent's lead.

And in case you didn't get the point:

 ... The Trump campaign has frequently taken aim at Biden for his lack of campaign events -- Trump has dubbed his Democratic opponent "basement Joe" -- and reiterated that criticism on Monday.

"No events for Joe Biden today???" Jason Miller, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, tweeted. "He's lid crazy!" (Calling a lid refers to a candidate or campaign indicating to the press that they will not hold any more events, typically for the remainder of day).

Well, what do you do when the cunning old socialist sneaks out and actually takes questions? Here's Monday evening's No. 3 story, at right (the image on the left is there to help you compare a really serious Twisted Scheme with the one involving that ungrateful woman in neighboring Michigan). First, pretend your previous story never happened:

Reporters were given a rare opportunity to ask Joe Biden questions during his campaign stop on Monday afternoon in Chester, Pa. 

Then recite the questions, but don't mention the answers (as in literally, nowhere in the story):

Here's what reporters asked:

"You've kept a relatively light public schedule in the past few days, can you give us a sense of how much you'll be traveling in the next few days?"

"Are you confident enough with your standing in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan? Are you expanding the map by traveling to Iowa?"

"You said as part of your commission you would look into how long justices serve on the court. Does that mean you're open to term limits?"

Considering how whiny Fox gets when Old Mask Guy doesn't discuss the Supreme Court, you'd think the answers might be of some ... but no, that's not going to get you that coveted spot on the Fox media desk, is it? Anyway, on to Wednesday morning:

The Tucker Carlson interview accounts for the top two stories (hitting both themes above, with the subject of the clusterfestivities promoted to "whistleblower"), but there in the No. 3 position:

President Trump will hold two campaign rallies in the battleground state of Arizona on Wednesday as his Democratic rival Joe Biden, back in his home state of Delaware, hears a briefing from public health officials on the coronavirus pandemic with just six days left until the election.

... Biden's campaign pledged last week that he was "going to campaign aggressively" in the final 11 days before the election, but since the second and final debate on Thursday night, the candidate has ventured out of Delaware just a handful of times. On Saturday and Monday, he campaigned in Pennsylvania, and on Tuesday, Biden traveled to Georgia.

... The Trump campaign has frequently taken aim at Biden for his lack of campaign events  — Trump has dubbed his Democratic opponent "basement Joe"  — and reiterated that criticism Monday.*

“He doesn’t leave his basement,” the president told reporters on Monday. “He’s a pathetic candidate.”

But wait! The candidate shows up on schedule, so it must be time for more questions (Wednesday afternoon):

Joe Biden took questions from reporters on Wednesday for the first time since Tucker Carlson’s interview with Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate of Hunter Biden who said the Biden family dismissed concerns that the Democratic nominee's alleged ties to his son's business deals could put a presidential campaign at risk.

But the media members on hand didn’t bother to ask about it.

... Reporters ignored the bombshell allegations, instead asking the Democratic presidential nominee about ongoing looting and unrest in Philadelphia and the Affordable Care Act before he hurried off into a waiting black SUV.


Three paragraphs of reaction from the Trump campaign, then the lead reporter (another three are listed in the shirttail) takes stage again with some shock and damn:

There has been a near blackout of coverage of Bobulinski’s shocking claims.

Bobulinski’s comments to Carlson were completely ignored by CNN and MSNBC through noon ET, roughly 16 hours after the start of the damning interview.

The New York Times and Washington Post didn’t cover the allegations in Wednesday’s paper, either.

Again, if you're waiting to hear what Old Mask Guy would say about, oh, urban unrest or health care, you've come to the wrong story.

 The fun comes to an end, after a fashion, with the Wednesday night lead story:

EXCLUSIVE: Jim Biden, the brother of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, refused to answer questions Wednesday when approached by Fox News outside a house in Maryland about claims the former vice president had knowledge about the family’s overseas business ventures.

Approached at a residence on the Eastern Shore, Jim Biden repeatedly rebuffed questions in his driveway as Fox News asked questions from a distance in the street.

“I don’t want to comment about anything,” Jim Biden said.

Asked if he cared to answer questions, Biden said: “Nope.”

Two sources confirmed the person was Jim Biden, including a neighbor who viewed a picture of the footage. The Eastern Shore house is linked to Jim Biden in public records.

Plumb makes you want to climb the fire escape, crawl through the widow's window and steal some photos off the nightstand, doesn't it?

Fox is only tenuously a news outlet on its best days.** It gets by because of a familiar programming flaw in journalism. The first step in the selection-and-salience framing process is problem definition:*** when you can specify the good guys, the bad guys and the core issue at hand, the actors move to your narrative. Your rival networks might think the candidate is answering a question that came up at a debate, but that's not your story -- the performance of the craven lapdog media is what your audience came for, and ain't that a big enough majority in any town?

* Have a drink on us if you used the ATEX save-get function regularly. Yes, same reporter as the first Monday story.

** Obligatory nod here to Fox's staff reporting of its own public opinion polling. Fox lies like a rug about other people's polls, but it's scrupulously calm and straightforward with its own, and it never says "outside the margin of error" unless a difference is at least twice the margin of error.

*** This is sort of the basic Robert Entman (1991, 1993) definition. If you want to start a framing fight, let's wait until after the election. I have grading to do.


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