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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Honeymoon with Obama over?

A harder look at Obama

NEW YORK - Life imitating art or just a coincidence? A study of campaign coverage found the media took a sharper look at Barack Obama the week after "Saturday Night Live" spoofed journalists enthralled by his candidacy.

The NBC comedy show on Feb. 23 opened with a mock debate where journalists were rough on Hillary Clinton while being starry-eyed about Obama. It matched complaints the Clinton campaign had made — and she even referenced the comedy skit during a real debate last week.

During the week, Obama was the dominant person in 69 percent of presidential campaign stories, according to a study by Project for Excellence in Journalism. That's the biggest percentage one candidate had received in any week this year.

Many of the stories took a tough look at Obama, such as a Feb. 25 ABC "World News" study on his Illinois legislative record and a "CBS Evening News" report on his career three nights later.

It's hard to say whether "SNL" acted as a de-facto assignment editor, since some of the stories were probably being prepared before the NBC show aired, but it did seem to crystallize a thought that had been percolating, said Mark Jurkowitz, the project's associate director.

"There were a lot of factors at play," Jurkowitz said. "But there's no question the skit, if nothing else, was perfectly timed."

With no primaries last week, news outlets had the time to look at other stories, as well as the time to look at their own performance. The Washington Post, New York Times and ABC's "Good Morning America" all ran stories addressing whether the media has been fairly covering the Obama-Clinton contest.

"Saturday Night Live" this past weekend opened its show with another fake debate where journalists played easy for Obama. This time, the skit ended with an appearance by Clinton herself.

The project studies 48 different media outlets, including newspapers, Web sites and television networks, as part of its examination of campaign coverage.



Other news
Obama starts whinin'!

Reporters from the Associated Press and Reuters went after him for his false denial that a campaign aide had held a secret meeting with Canadian officials over Obama’s trade policy. A trio of Chicago reporters pummeled him with questions about the corruption trial this week of a friend and supporter. The New York Post piled on with a question about him losing the Jewish vote.

Obama responded with the classic phrases of a politician in trouble. “That was the information that I had at the time. . . . Those charges are completely unrelated to me. . . . I have said that that was a mistake. . . . The fact pattern remains unchanged.”

When those failed, Obama tried another approach. “We’re running late,” the candidate said, and then he disappeared behind a curtain.

Before he beat his hasty retreat, however, Obama found time to assign blame for the tough questions suddenly coming his way. “The Clinton campaign has been true to its word in employing a ‘kitchen sink’ strategy,” he protested. “There are, what, three or four things a day?”

Spoken like a man who had just been hit on the head with a heavy piece of porcelain.

...
Whatever. Reporters, at tables in the back of the room, answered e-mails and read newspapers. Obama, by making no news in his speech, had left them plenty of time to plot their ambush -- executed minutes later to the obvious surprise of the candidate.

"I don't have any preliminary statement," Obama said as he began his news conference, encouraging reporters to "just dive in." That was a mistake.

Tom Raum of the Associated Press led off with a question about whether an Obama aide had told Canadians not to take seriously the candidate's public rhetoric critical of the NAFTA trade agreement. "Let me, let me, let me, let me just be absolutely clear what happened," Obama answered, explaining that the meeting was a "courtesy" and involved no "winks and nods."

Then an agitator -- columnist Carol Marin with the Chicago Sun-Times -- broke in. Marin, a visitor to the Obama entourage who accused the regulars of being too "quiet," accused the candidate of concealing details about fundraisers Rezko had for him and a real estate transaction between the two.

"I don't think it's fair to suggest somehow that we've been trying to hide the ball on this," Obama answered. But this only provoked a noisy back-and-forth between Marin, Sun-Times colleague Lynn Sweet and Michael Flannery from Chicago's CBS affiliate. "How many fundraisers? . . . Who was there? . . . Disclosure of the closing documents?"

Obama, while repeating his formulation that it was "a boneheaded move" to do business with Rezko, tried to shut down the requests for more information. "These requests, I think, could just go on forever," he said. "At some point, what we need to try to do is respond to what's pertinent."

Reporters, however, had a different idea of what was pertinent, and the questions about Rezko, NAFTA and other unpleasant subjects continued to come. An aide called out "last question," and Obama made his move for the exit -- only for reporters to shout after him in protest. "C'mon, guys," he pleaded. "I just answered, like, eight questions."

ha-ha-ha

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