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Media Expert Decries Campaign Coverage

BETH FOUHY   03/ 2/08 12:18 AM ET   AP

Media Coverage

DALLAS — The founder of a prestigious institute on media and politics added his voice Saturday to the chorus of complaint over perceived press bias in favor of Democrat Barack Obama.

Walter Shorenstein, a prominent San Francisco-based real estate developer, Democratic fundraiser and longtime supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton, penned a memo to Democratic party "superdelegates" and other activists criticizing media coverage of the presidential campaign.

Shorenstein is the founder of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. His memo came days before Tuesday's key primaries in Ohio and Texas, which Clinton must win to save her waning candidacy.

The former first lady and her advisers have lashed out at the press in recent days, suggesting unfair coverage of the campaign has in part led to Obama's victories in the last 11 voting contests. They've encouraged supporters and voters to watch a "Saturday Night Live" skit that aired last weekend, depicting a group of journalists fawning over Obama.

Clinton appeared on this week's "SNL" to praise a similar sketch that parodied the media's treatment of her and her rival.

In his memo, Shorenstein concurred with the Clinton campaign's assessment.

"I am absolutely outraged with the media coverage of the presidential campaign," Shorenstein wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press. "This is the most important election in my long lifetime, and to quote one of my favorite movies, 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!'"

He was quoting the 1976 movie "Network," in which a mentally disturbed television news anchor played by Peter Finch went on the air and implored viewers to rebel against gimmicks staged by network news executives.

"There is too much on the line for the media to ignore important issues while they obsess about Hillary's hairdo or Barack's baritone," Shorenstein continued. "Is it in the country's best interest that voters received far more information about Hillary's laugh than Obama's legislative record? Is it good for our nation that more attention is paid to the differences in their speaking style than their health care plans?"

Shorenstein attached several studies to the memo indicating the press had given more favorable coverage to Obama than to Clinton, and urged activists to forward the material to friends and voters and to complain to reporters.

"Our democracy depends upon the fourth estate to fulfill the uniquely critical role of informing voters about the important issues facing our nation," Shorenstein wrote. "Yet far too often, the campaign coverage has been biased, blase, or baseless."

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Filed by Will Thomas  |