Even when they report on their own activities they remain supposedly objective.
Take Elisabeth Bumiller, for example.
After another reporter asked whether Sen. McCain might consider John Kerry as a running mate, reciprocating the consideration Kerry gave McCain, Bumiller followed up with this:
"Senator, uh, can I ask you about Sen. Kerry? I just went back and looked at our story,uh, the Times story, and you, you told Sheryl Stolberg that you had never had a conversation with Senator Kerry about being--about vice president."
Well, it's not a question so much as a statement once we get past the first line. Bumiller's delivery makes it sound like she thinks she has caught McCain in a contradiction. That clearly seems to be the way McCain took Bumiller's approach.
Let's see how Bumiller reports it!
Later, when Mr. McCain was asked by a reporter from The New York Times about the conversation and why he said in an interview with The Times in May 2004 that he had not even had a casual conversation with Mr. Kerry on the topic, Mr. McCain displayed some of the temper that he is known for but that he has largely kept under control in this campaign.
“Everybody knows I had a conversation,” he testily told the reporter in a news conference on his plane as it headed here from Atlanta. “Everybody knows that, that I had a conversation. There’s no living American in Washington, there’s no one, and you know it, too. You know it. You know it. So I don’t even know why you asked.”
When asked to address when the conversation with Mr. Kerry occurred, Mr. McCain once again replied sharply. “No, no,” he said, “because the issue is closed, as far as I’m concerned. Everybody knows it. Everybody knows it in America.”
The issue has become a highly sensitive one to Mr. McCain, who is actively courting conservatives.
It is somewhat rare for news reporters to employ adverbs and descriptive verbs to the speech of sources. It is thought that including such terms tends to bias the reporting. Apparently Bumiller and her editor(s) at the Times did not feel the story properly conveyed McCain's nastiness without a little bit of help. Thus we have "testily" and "sharply."If such words are necessary to convey the story, I have a suggested rewrite.
Later, a reporter tried imply that McCain had contradicted himself by asking "Senator, uh, can I ask you about Sen. Kerry? I just went back and looked at our story,uh, the Times story, and you, you told Sheryl Stolberg that you had never had a conversation with Senator Kerry about being--about vice president."The New York Times has become adept at giving itself black eyes.
McCain, apparently astonished at the reporter's stupidity, replied that it was common knowledge the he had engaged in a conversation with McCain and said he wasn't aware of the circumstances of his alleged statement.
The reporter belatedly added that the story had been from May of 2004, and McCain condescendingly noted that he might not have had his conversation with Kerry by that time.
The reporter kept badgering McCain, but McCain declined to provide the details or timing of his "private" conversation with Kerry.
The reporter then unprofessionally asked McCain why he was so angry, including her editorial judgment as the premise of her question. McCain smiled and leaned toward the reporter, saying "Pardon me?"
The reporter, apparently thinking better of the question, said "Never mind."
Great objective reporting there, Bumiller.
I thought it somewhat significant to the overall media end of the story to note that the Fox News version of the story was largely sympathetic to Bumiller.
The anchor gives an inaccurate summary of the scenario and emphasizes the history of McCain's temper. The Fox producer she interviews, who was present during the exchange, offered context that was not apparent on any of the videos I've seen. He said that the reporters were under the impression that McCain had denied speaking directly with Kerry and interpreted Bumiller's question as an attempt to get that point clarified.
Regardless of whether that impression of the reporters and producers reasonably conforms to reality, Bumiller's question was at best a clumsy attempt to address that issue.
On this story, the reporting from Fox is no better than that of the Times.
Note: Fixed the spelling of Bumiller's first name in the post header.