12/04/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Hangs in the Balance

Immediately after the attacks of 9/11, most U.S. journalists and the collective news organizations they worked for were more than happy to jump on the patriotic bandwagon -- their supposedly hallowed sense of objectivity suspended (for what should have been, at best, a very short amount of time) as they closely followed the most devastating series of events in American history. At the time there were very few in this country willing to complain that the mass media were shirking their responsibility to provide the news from an unbiased point of view, simply because it seemed impossible to imagine anyone -- even journalists -- not being personally affected by the stories they were covering.

They were only human after all.

Not simply that -- they were American.

They lived here, and therefore understood that they themselves -- their home -- had come under attack on 9/11. They had a personal stake in what was happening -- one that couldn't be ignored or set aside.

Put simply: There are times when you just can't be completely unbiased.

I bring this up because according to a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, Barack Obama has received a certain amount of preferential treatment from the television media over the past several weeks. The survey logged the number of favorable comments and stories about each candidate as opposed to the number of unfavorable. It found that Obama has generally been portrayed in a more positive light than John McCain.

Supporters of Barack Obama -- myself included -- would argue that the reason for the discrepancy is simple: The press has had a hell of a lot more negative material to mine from John McCain's campaign than it has from Obama's. While objectivity is ostensibly crucial, it's irresponsible and just flat out unscrupulous to seek "balance" where there is none -- to, when covering the misdeeds of one candidate, force yourself to say something equally unfavorable about his or her opponent simply to maintain the illusion of objectivity. Over the last two months, McCain has made one bizarre decision after another; has staged several confusing and potentially dangerous political gambles; has behaved erratically, sometimes even angrily as his political fortunes began to dwindle; and in a move that's inarguably reprehensible, has allowed the pot to be stirred among the most rabid and vitriolic of his supporters to the point where violence was threatened against his opponent. While the McCain campaign has been, by almost any standard, a mess -- flush with one daily drama after another -- Barack Obama's run remains surprisingly, ironically, uneventful. Obama's been calm, cool and focused over the past several weeks, which -- to be honest -- doesn't give the press much to work with when it comes to its tendency toward contrived controversy.

Bottom line: Most journalists are just calling it like they see it.

But I have no doubt that there's another reason that the media -- and for that matter most anyone with a forum and an ability to influence the public who doesn't also count him or herself as a right wing mouthpiece -- has made sure to shine a bright light on the faults and foibles of John McCain and, in particular, Sarah Palin recently. It goes back to what I said earlier.

They live here.

They're American and therefore have a vested interest in this election: Like the rest of us, they have to live with the outcome. They have brains and understand what John McCain and Sarah Palin would mean for our country.

Many in the media just can't force some misguided brand of phony objectivity this time around -- not with so much at stake.

And as with 9/11, I'm not sure I can find a reason to blame them.