The presidential campaign of 2008 seems pretty far off these days. An economic collapse will do that. But given the profound challenges facing the nation and the president these days, it's worth reviewing the media coverage of the race to see if journalists last year effectively probed the candidates vying to lead the country through a difficult period. Sadly, there were far more media lowlights than highlights during the campaign, as too many reporters and pundits focused on flag pins, bowling, and fairly trivial faux pas.
One could do a full article just on William Kristol's errors and flubs at the New York Times (my favorite coming when Kristol touted Clarence Thomas for vice president long before he fell in love with Sarah Palin). Moreover, it often seemed that America was trapped in an alternative universe shaped by the media, with John McCain running against some scary, inexperienced, part-Muslim who was palling around with Weathermen radicals and terrorists. Then the votes were counted, and the boogeyman was gone. Today, even half the people who voted for McCain say they are optimistic about Barack Obama's presidency. So much of the media's performance ended up not mattering--or being trumped by other factors.