Historian: 2008 Press Corps Isn't The Worst Ever, Fox Is The Best

05/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jon Friedman MarketWatch

In 2006, Princeton University history professor Sean Wilentz wrote a cover story for Rolling Stone titled: "The Worst President in History?"

The accompanying headline said: "One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush."

Also featuring a drawing depicting Bush wearing an elaborate dunce cap, Rolling Stone implied that the question was rhetorical and the punctuation mark unnecessary.

When it comes to reporting on campaigns, some real lowlights have emerged over the past year.
Remember the misinterpreted polling in Iowa and New Hampshire, the New York Times' poorly sourced blathering about John McCain's possible dalliance with a lobbyist, the insulting coverage of Hillary Clinton's cleavage and the over-the-top reporting of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Barack Obama? ...

He told me that journalists were capable of surprising him by doing solid -- as opposed to sensational -- work. In turn, Wilentz surprised me when he reviewed the media's coverage of the Pennsylvania primary, which Clinton won.

He said the best coverage by far came from the Fox News Channel. Wilentz observed that Karl Rove, contributor to Fox News and architect of Bush's two successful presidential campaigns, among others, had sounded "very, very knowledgeable." (Fox News is part of News Corp. (NWS: NWS 19.99, +0.13, +0.7%) , which also owns MarketWatch, publisher of this column.)

"What it showed is that the reporting of politics doesn't have to be bad," Wilentz said. "If you respect your audience without a partisan imperative, then you can have some sophisticated reporting."

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