Angered by what they consider sexist news coverage of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, many women and erstwhile Clinton supporters are proposing boycotts of the cable networks, putting up videos on a “Media Hall of Shame,” starting a national conversation about sexism and pushing Clinton’s rival, Sen. Barack Obama, to address the matter.
But many in the news media — with a few exceptions, including Katie Couric, the anchor of the CBS Evening News — see little need for reconsidering their coverage or changing their approach going forward. Rather, they say, as the Clinton campaign fell behind, it exploited a few glaring examples of sexist coverage to whip up a backlash and to try to create momentum for Clinton.
Phil Griffin, senior vice president of NBC News and the executive in charge of MSNBC, a particular target of criticism, said that although a few mistakes had been made, they had been corrected quickly and the network’s overall coverage was fair.
“I get it, that in this 24-hour media world, you’ve got to be on your game and there’s very little room for mistakes,” Griffin said. “But the Clinton campaign saw an opportunity to use it for their advantage. They were trying to rally a certain demographic, and women were behind it.”
His views were echoed by other media figures. “She got some tough coverage at times, but she brought that on herself, whether it was the Bosnian snipers or not conceding on the night of the final primaries,” said Rem Rieder, editor of American Journalism Review. “She had a long track record in public life as a serious person and a tough politician and she was covered that way.”
Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, said: “I have not had a lot of regretful conversations with high-ranking media types and political reporters about how unfair their coverage of the Hillary Clinton campaign was.”
Among journalists, he added, the coverage “does not register as a mistake that must not be allowed to happen again.”
Taking aim from the inside, though, was Couric, who has herself has faced harsh criticism as the first solo female anchor of an evening news broadcast. Couric posted a video on the CBS Web site on Wednesday about the coverage of Clinton.