to the study.
“In many stories, Obama was the target of not only the whole roster of GOP presidential contenders. He was also being criticized in often harsh terms by Republicans in Congress,” the study found. “Added to that, members of his own party began criticizing him on both policy and strategy grounds, particularly as his poll numbers fell. And for much of this period, the president’s coverage reflected the biggest problem on his watch – a continual flow of bad news about the U.S. economy.”
Even the killing of Osama bin Laden did not reverse the president’s poll numbers.
“One reason is that many of the references to his [Obama's] role in the hunt for bin Laden were matched by skepticism that he would receive any long term political benefit from it. Another was that bin Laden news was tempered with news about the nation’s economy.”
And that is the problem. While journalists are compelled to cover stories about political warfare and the economy, they should not attack Obama or anyone else in news stories under the guise of providing context for readers and viewers.
An Associated Press story on May 2 is a textbook example of this problem:
“A nation surly over rising gas prices, stubbornly high unemployment and nasty partisan politics poured into the streets to wildly cheer President Barack Obama’s announcement that Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, had been killed by U.S. forces after a decade long manhunt. The outcome could not have come at a better time for Obama, sagging in the poll as he embarks on his re-election campaign.”
The news of bin Laden’s death was almost buried.
The story could have also been presented this way:
“Despite former President George W. Bush’s promise to capture Osama bin Laden ‘dead or alive,’ it was his successor who delivered on that promise in grand fashion, prompting thousands of U.S. citizens to take to the streets in noisy celebration.”
Another option: “President Obama, who had his foreign policy credentials questioned repeatedly during the 2008 presidential campaign, delivered on a campaign pledge to kill Osama bin Laden if ever presented the opportunity, a surprise action that led to impromptu celebrations across the United States.”
Either approach would have provided more relevant context than AP wrapping its story in the highly-charged language of his Republican challengers.
President Obama knew he would be double-teamed by GOP congressional leaders and Republican candidates hoping to unseat him. But he probably didn’t expect the stealth attacks from major media outlets.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his website, http://www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at http://www.twitter.com/currygeorge.