Dec
12
2011

Washington Post: Campaign Journalism or Campaign Advertising?

The Washington Post launched a series of Republican presidential candidate profiles on Sunday (12/11/11). First up was Mitt Romney, and right away you sense there's something a little off here.

Here's the headline and subhead:

The Problem Solver

Mitt Romney doesn't want to talk about feeling voters' pain. He just wants to get to work relieving it.

Reporter Ann Gerhart's piece begins:

The mind of Mitt Romney is a supremely rational place.

The article is full of quotes from Romney supporters, alongside nods of approval from the reporter:

He is a man with a prodigious intellect who has been married to his high school sweetheart for 42 years, donates 10percent of his money to his church (a considerable sum, as his self-made fortune is upward of $250million) and, those close to him to say, acts generously, earns the loyalty of his staff and drives himself relentlessly to get the job done, whatever it is.

For good measure, readers learn that "Romney is Dudley Do-Right in a Kim Kardashian world." Yes, that's a real quote.

It's not all puffery, mind you; at one point Romney faces comes in for some harsh criticism:

He seems too perfect and tidy, his trim hair and waistline in keeping with his disciplined mien and his formidable multi-state operation. His fastidiousness can border on the fussy.

And Romney's stint in the private sector apparently went like this:

With his characteristic work ethic, after investing in a company as head of Bain Capital, Romney would roll up his sleeves, learn the business like an insider and re-envision it–with the imperative of increasing profitability as the guiding principle.

The piece closes with Romney's brother explaining that he has an "overriding philosophy about caring for people," which Gerhart used to sum up:

And in service of these goals, Romney's flip-floppery could be interpreted as a flexibility of thinking that might help him bust through warring ideologies in Washington–an asset, not a deficit–and fix his biggest set of problems yet.

Will every candidate get this kind of treatment? It's too early to tell. But today (12/12/11) the Post profiles Rick Perry, and his piece opens with this:

He has always had it, an ease and a charm that only the naturals possess, a confidence that bears the stamp of a man aware of his gifts.

The next part– "Few can match Texas Gov. Rick Perry's allure…."– isn't much better, but the piece overall takes a much more critical tone, perhaps due to the state of Perry's presidential campaign.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.