Why Dana Milbank Loves Newt Gingrich

Friday, February 10, 2012


A few weeks ago Dana Milbank, political columnist for the Washington Post, pinned his heart on his sleeve and wrote a very high profile love letter.  To Newt Gingrich.  It was raw, it was honest and it was a totally tongue-in-cheek way of acknowledging the vested interest that reporters have in the seemingly endless horse race coverage. Milbank tells Bob why it was time to take his Newt love to the next level.

Comments [6]

bob garfield from spare bedroom


you misunderstand. i don't think reportersshould call the race best on ur expertise and judgment and then go home. but to breathlessly cover the horserace as if it were really a race is misleading. covering events is one thing; being an enabler, or participant, in hype is quite another. and that thing that it is, in my view, is unethical.

Feb. 17 2012 12:40 PM

I have three words for Bob: Dewey Defeats Truman!
Journalists do a much better job telling us what happened, rather than what will happen, especially in elections (Bush/Gore, anyone).
To assume that they know that Romney is the one is as improper as thinking all we should cover is the horse race and we should lengthen it as much as possible.
If--IF--as they are saying this morning, Santorum takes Michigan, then a media caught flat-footed having not kept up with the guy, would be accused of being the Romney camp (a critique they've already gotten).
Granted, this is a long shot race for anyone other than Romney, but for the media to ignore what happens in polls and money is to tell the rest of us, "Don't worry, this won't matter. We know what's best for you."
The breathlessness of the horse race is partly the issue for me, a surge by one candidate is always portrayed as a death blow for the other side(s).

Feb. 15 2012 07:37 AM
Andrew M from Santa Rosa CA

Seriously, this "story" was insulting to our intelligence. You must be hurting to fill the 5-10 minutes it took. This is news???


Feb. 12 2012 05:28 PM

Y. Brody is correct but I would say NPR falls into the same trap. Our station WFAE is NPRs main shows and Diane Rehm. DR tries to keep the guests from dwelling on the horse race and report on what the candidates policies would be. My feeling is the horse race reporting allows NPR and the media to be lazy. How hard is it to report who is ahead or the polls. The other is the sound bites. If Newt really hates the mainstream media then why report his one lines or any of the one liners unless the reporters go into depth on how that will effect the economy or policy. That kind of reporting takes a lot of work.
This is the one question I would like to hear from the candidates what are they going to do if they win continue to say it's Obama's fault. They sure don't let any blame fall on Bush blowing up the economy. If a Republican wins they will not be held to anything they promised during the election because all the say is Obama is bad. What parts of programs or the military are they going to cut to balance the budget if they can not raise taxes. That is what I want to hear.
Maybe I should be reading democracynow.org instead of NPR to get real news.

Feb. 12 2012 05:07 PM
Robert from NYC

Who cares what Dana Milbank feels! BTW can't he afford a new pair of eyeglasses? It's been months since I've seen him wearing them. Bravo Y Brady!

Feb. 12 2012 10:24 AM
Y. Brody

Mr. Milbank, like too many of his colleagues in the corporate media, doesn't seem to understand that we citizens rely on journalists to inform us about politics. We're tired of being spectators of political sport, we actually want to participate in our democracy (believe it or not). But Milbank is also being refreshingly frank about his media company's bottom-line needs for increased market share. Milbank understands (too many others do not) that he has fully internalized his organization's imperative to please advertisers and maximize profits. He gives us a nice summary of what's wrong with a media system in a democratic society that is overwhelmingly advertising-based, such as ours:

"We like to see these things [i.e., reality show politics] dragged out as long as possible because it's good for viewership, or listenership, or readership, but it also makes our jobs much more enjoyable. You don't want to sit around and write for five months about the nuance of tax policy."


In other words, he's saying it's hard work to inform people about what they need to know, he'd rather be something of a writer-entertainer because this is more fun! Ok...but is this not an abdication of the responsibility of the role of journalist in a democratic society? What is a journalist's job after all, to inform citizens or to amuse citizens? This kind of self-serving journalism is good for business but it nudges well-meaning members of our society towards political spectatorship, not meaningful citizenship.

Other democratic countries understand these issues better than we do, especially the inherent biases and conflicts of interest that dependence on advertisers brings to news media. The US spends *far* less per capita on public media than any other democratic country, to the detriment of quality information, according to the academics:


If we want higher quality information and better informed citizens, we need to work towards balancing out the ratio of public media to corporate media in our society, more like they do in Norway, Germany, Denmark,...and every other democratic country.

By increasing public funding for NPR and PBS, we will also make public media less dependent on corporate-underwriting, which brings its own economic and political biases. For some realistic options on how to do this, see McChesney and Nichols:


In addition to NPR and PBS, independent news sources (those that take zero corporate or government dollars) also play a crucial role in a functioning democracy. You can learn more about the world from watching a single week's worth of democracynow.org (one hour per day, Monday to Friday) than you can from reading Milbank all year long.

Feb. 12 2012 07:14 AM

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