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The LA Times Insults Obama Regularly

Why does one of the largest newspapers in the country allow its political writer to routinely disrespect the president in a casually insulting way?
 
 
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Some people have no class.

Some conservatives suffer from such an acute case of Obama Derangement Syndrome that they can’t even debate the issues of the day with out resorting to childish name-calling. For instance, look at these insulting phrases one right-wing blogger has recently used to describe the president of the United States:

Pretty shallow. But what do you expect from amateurish, fringe bloggers, right?

Here’s the catch: The right-wing blogger in question doesn’t post his childish put-downs at RedState or any one of other feral, Obama-hating sites. The blogger quoted above works for the Los Angeles Times, once considered to be one of the most important, prestigious newspapers in the country in terms of political coverage. But no more. And that’s in part due to the work of Laura Bush’s former flack, Andrew Malcolm, and the way Times editors allow him to routinely use sneering, condescending language to describe the president of the United States -- language that clearly runs counter to the Times’own published guidelines.

So my question is a simple one: Why does one of the largest newspapers in the country allow its political writer to routinely disrespect the president in a casually insulting way? To portray the president as some kind of punk. And second question: What exactly is it about Obama that drives Malcolm to use such oddly inappropriate and flippant language? Is it Obama’s youth? What?

Trust me, if Malcolm wants to make his living as a human RNC talking point, and publish as much misinformation as he can, that's certainly his right. (He’s quite proficient at it, BTW.) And obviously I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with raucous debate. We do it at County Fair all the time. But what Malcolm does on top of that is routinely belittle and demean the presidency in a strange, and clearly unprofessional, manner that reflects quite poorly on the Times.

As Media Matters’ Jamison Foser noted previously:

It’s one thing to criticize the president or his administration for the things they do and say; that’s obviously fair game. But Malcolm’s treatment of Obama … is nothing more than childish name-calling, completely lacking in substance or reason. The only thing more odd than the LA Times’ sanctioning this petty little sniping would be if any of Malcolm’s readers find his tedious taunts amusing.

Remember when the Timeswas a serious, national newspaper? I do. Today, its political coverage, especially the stuff produced by its Top of the Ticket blog where Malcolm works, is often just excruciatingly lame. For some odd reason, the Times has decided to dumb down its political product and position its site as a Michelle Malkin wannabe, and in a way no other major newspaper in the country has done, nor would ever dream of doing.

Somewhere, former Times publisher Otis Chandler is turning over in his grave. Not just because of the hollow, right-wing politics of the Times'online political product. (Chandler was a proud liberal.) But because the product so uniformly sophomoric and dishonest. (i.e. It has nothing to do with journalism, or even opinion journalism.) The kind of relentlessly partisan, right-wing junk the Times site often produces, thanks to Malcolm, is just embarrassing for a national newspaper that used to win prestigious prizes -- for a newspaper that once had aspirations higher than landing a Drudge link and wallowing in online hate.

And I don't even have to do a Google search to know for a fact that when President Bush was in office, there was nobody on staff at the Times, and certainly nobody writing off the opinion pages, who was allowed to so casually insult the office of the presidency on a regular basis.

So what is this about? Does the Timesthink it's clever and endearing to treat the president as a two-bit hood? And why does the Timesallows one of its high-profile political writers to continually adopt a hateful Rush Limbaugh and Fox News-like tone and personally degrade the presidency? (Remember when conservatives demanded people respect the office of the presidency? No more.)

When I recently contacted the Times’ reader representative, Deirdre Edgar, to ask about Malcolm’s work, and specifically what guidelines the Timesuses when editing his work, she emailed me: “Andrew Malcolm’s comments are covered by the First Amendment, just as yours and mine are. Opinion writers are given wide berth to press their opinions.” When pressed about the guidelines, she wrote back, “Opinion writers must follow The Times’ guidelines on obscenity and taste issues.”

Please note the Times’ newsroom guidelines [emphasis added]:

The overall goal is to maintain a clean, dignified and civil tone in all writing, in the paper and on the website.

Indeed, in 2008 when the newspaper updated its guidelines and emphasized its online content, the paper’s deputy managing editor at the time, Melissa McCoy, stressed

that the one thing hadn’t changed was the Times’ desire "to maintain a clean, dignified and civil tone," and that adopting a conversational style online was not an invitation to abandon the newspaper’s newsroom standards.

But today, referring to the president of the United States as “what’s-his-name” represents the “clean, dignified and civil tone” that the Timesstrives for? Give me a break.

And please note that last year when a Top of the Ticket item (not written by Malcolm) ran in the print edition of the Times, and referred to former Vice President Dick Cheney, "spewing his critiques about the Obama administration," an editor quickly suggested the tone and (loaded!) language of the blog post was out of bounds. And yet, when Malcolm routinely disparages the president in the most juvenile way possible, nobody inside the Timesnewsroom raises a hand in protest.

The other point Edgar stressed in her correspondence with me was that the California daily prides itself on its balanced commentary:

The Times’ goal is to provide views across the political spectrum in its coverage as a whole. … The Times looks to provide a balance of coverage as a whole. It’s zone coverage, not man-to-man. There is liberal commentary, and there is conservative commentary.

That’s simply a joke. If you look at the Times’national political coverage, in terms of the daily partisan voices, there’s Malcolm doing his B-level, Obama-hating shtick, and that’s it. The Times’Top of the Ticket blog has for years essentially consisted of straight news/analysis items punctuated by Malcolm’s Drudge-Lite routine. (And on that front, Malcolm was recently joined by former Bush flack Jimmy Orr.) There is no sharply partisan liberal voice on the blog or any other of the Times’political commentary outlets.

Meaning, there is no balance. At all.

Show me the Timesblogger, for instance, who shows up on liberal talk radio, makes regularly appearances on The Rachel Maddow Show, and is linked to by key liberal bloggers while writing critically of the GOP leadership. That Timesstaffer does not exist. But the Timesis happy to employ Malcolm, who makes his living feeding the GOP Noise Machine by spreading a constant stream of conservative misinformation? (FYI, I’m not exaggerating when I say that Malcolm’s work revolves around cherry-picking polling results

that reflect poorly on Obama and then writing them up online. That’s his job.)

It’s no secret that the once-mighty Los Angeles Times, like so many big-city dailies, has fallen down financially and has suffered an enormous newsroom brain drain though layoffs and buyouts. But why Timeseditors think the solution to that stripped-down media landscape is to allow someone like Malcolm to publish sneering, immature attacks on the president remains a mystery.

The Timesclaims it strives for balance in its political opinion, as well as a civil tone. But with the Obama-hating Malcolm, the paper fails on both counts.

A senior fellow at Media Matters for America, and a former senior writer for Salon, Boehlert's first book, "Lapdogs: How The Press Rolled Over for Bush," was published in May. He can be reached at eboehlert@aol.com
 
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