The media that I read and watch gets an average grade of B for its overall news coverage last week. Following are the stories that were covered and on which the grades are based.
But before you read the grades, let me give you some context (something the media doesn't do often enough).
I have been teaching college courses on and off for 30 years, 10 as a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism (thus, my obsession with writing about the media), and during those years I observed grade inflation in action. When I began teaching college, teachers could give students who did only fair work a C, poor work a D, and, of course, flunk them with an F if they didn't show up. But sometime in the middle 1990s, especially with graduate students, for a variety of reasons the lowest grade school administrations would accept for someone who showed up was a B-. In the old days, a B was a good grade which meant "above average" or "good," as opposed to "fair," which would have been the forbidden C. But today, with a B- being the lowest grade allowed, a B means only "fair" and a B- means "poor." This is the context for my overall grade of B for last week's coverage of these stories:
President Bush - C The media generally gave the incoherent W cream puff coverage just for showing up.
Former president Bill Clinton - B+ The media generally gave Monica Lewinsky's ex-boyfriend very little coverage, except on talk shows, which is why it deserves a B+ -- the less coverage of Bill, the better the grade. No mentions equal an A.
Senator Hillary Clinton - B The media generally gave ex-president Clinton's wife less cream puff coverage than the previous two weeks and started to ask when she was going to release her tax returns and contributors to the Clinton library, got on her for Geraldine Ferraro's obnoxious, racist remarks, and for her generally negative campaigning. The media is still reluctant to go at her too hard lest she play the Republican-like, victim-of-the-biased-media card again. The manipulative victim card and experience card are getting pretty frayed, but the media still lets her deal them too often.
Senator Barack Obama -- B The media gave some play to the story about Obama's ex-pastor and early mentor's noxious sermon given last July. But, of course, The New York Times's dumb columnist, William Kristol, once again got his facts wrong about Obama's presence at the sermon. How long will The Times allow this kind of lazy stupidity to continue? But more reliable media gave the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's sermon and Obama's denouncement of it fairly balanced coverage.
Ex-Governor Elliott Spitzer - B The responsible media gave reasonably balanced coverage to the big story of the week. Of course, the "responsible" media does not include broadcast and cable networks, who out-tabloided the tabloids in salacious coverage, especially in getting feminist psycho-babblists to blame Spitzer's wife.
Ashley Alexandra Dupre - D The media gave way too much play to Spitzer's happy hooker. She got more coverage and more favorable coverage than any of the people mentioned above. Her singing career has taken off (along with her bra in newly posed pictures) and she'll probably soon have a reality show on MTV, like that other porn star, Paris Hilton, does. Ashely no doubt watched Paris's instructional videos to advance her, Ashley's, chosen profession. I think it says it all about the state of our current celebrity-and-sex-obsessed culture and media that Ashley Alexandra Dupre was the big winner last week. The losers, once again, were serious news and societal values.
Ralph _____ - A The media I read and watched last week did not mention the presidential campaign of the perennial spoiler and egomaniac. Many of these people are created by the media, so, conceivably, the media can un-create, or kill, them if they are ignored. If the media never utters his name ever, maybe both R.N.'s candidacy and he will go away. I wish we could say the same about our flirtatious ex-president.
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