The good news for CNN was that a panel discussion Tuesday night featuring Donald Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord went viral and produced all kinds of media buzz. The bad news for CNN was that lots of people were mocking the segment and shaking their heads at the idea that Lord is employed by the network as a political analyst.
It's long past time for journalists to demand their freedom from Trump press pens. Escaping from the pens represents a simple way for news organizations to assert their obvious right to cover the Trump campaign on their own terms, rather than being penned in at campaign events and living in fear of having access denied if coverage is deemed to be too critical.
Switching back and forth between MSNBC and CNN last Thursday night as they aired competing, hour-long interviews with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, viewers ran the risk of whiplash. The threat lingered not just because Clinton and Trump were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but because the tone and tenor of the two events seemed dramatically different.
Media message received: Clinton is loud and cantankerous! But it's not just awkward gender stereotypes that are in play these days. It's a much larger pattern of thumb-on-the-scale coverage and commentary. Just look at what seemed to be the press' insatiable appetite to frame Clinton's Iowa caucus win last week as an unnerving loss.
The underlying truth here is that if Fox News conducted itself as an ethical news outlet, these kinds of messy spats and hurt feelings wouldn't be an issue. Instead, Fox is often run as a RNC marketing arm, or a GOP clubhouse, raising expectations from Republicans in terms of how they'll be treated.