The red truck is rolling. Fred Thompson is on the campaign trail.
But is Thompson the Republican candidate or the NBC-Newsweek candidate?
Skim the last 12 months of news and you’ll see that no publication has followed Thompson’s political him-hawing like Newsweek. A total of 17 Newsweek articles – including a September cover story – feature Thompson. Meanwhile, the competition is suffering. John McCain’s got 10 articles. Rudy Giuliani’s got 7. The fading Mitt Romney has 6. Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, a paltry 1. The rest of the major declared candidates – Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback and Duncan Hunter – don’t even register on the Fred-philic pages of Newsweek.
To a large degree, Newsweek’s coverage has defined – if not built – Thompson’s political identity and platform.
The deluge of coverage is the product of clear editorial decision-making. Newsweek assigned reporter Holly Bailey to the Thompson campaign months before there was any campaign. It’s been her obsession. Of the 17 Newsweek articles on Thompson’s run, Bailey has written 12, including the cover story on September 10. Since April, like a rodent gathering up strewn objects – bits of string, chewing gum and bottlecaps – Bailey has built a pack rat portrait of Thompson. She has written about such non-issues as his alleged laziness, his steamy friendship with fellow Republican John McCain, his B-list acting career, his rusty Ford F-150 and, of course, his conspicuous lack of that political quantity known as “the fire in the belly.” Newsweek’s faint criticism actually adds depth and intrigue to a candidate whose greatest and, arguably, most formative political experiences have come in a quarter century of lobbying for deregulatory, pro-industry and – eek! – pro-choice causes.
|Newsweek articles Sept. ’06-Sept. ’07 featuring Republican presidential candidates|
|Research: Desiree yael Vester, Sabrina Ali|
True, Newsweek has not been the only outlet gazing into the funhouse mirror. Yet, as the New York Times is busy bestowing Jeri Thompson trophy wife status, few of our serious outlets have asked the critical questions raised by Thompson’s political machinations – like how he got onto early presidential polls in the first place, and whether or not his media omnipresence is a violation of FCC equal airtime rules.
But Newsweek’s reporting goes beyond the fluff that inevitably finds its way to print during election time. When the Tonight Show With Jay Leno becomes the exclusive forum for a political-candidate-cum-NBC-actor we should start thinking about shady corporate interests. Add to this Thompson’s role as an NBC actor and the fact that Newsweek posts its content on the MSNBC website, and some serious journalistic eyebrows should be raised. We have asked Holly Bailey and Newsweek and MSNBC top brass for an explanation. No response.
Newsweek’s love affair with Thompson reflects what we see as the Washington Post Company’s (Newsweek’s parent company) ugly and continuing editorial entangling with the NBC Corporation. On Tuesday, Newsweek curiously announced that in mid-October it would stop posting its content to the MSNBC website. But the magazine says it plans to continue to share editorial content with the web news media giant.
This conflict-of-interest threatens the integrity of our ostensibly democratic electoral process.
So, in the name of media transparency and democracy, iMediaEthics gives you “My Johnson is for Thompson,” the Fred Thompson Twins’ music video debut
(Video by Drew Mintz, Dale Fitzgerald and Robert Slawinski)