Why we can't have nice things. Also, Eric Boehlert does a deep dive into news coverage of what the Build Back Bills actually contain. Spoiler: There's very little.
November 1, 2021

Ladies and gentlemen, your librul media.

In a related example of media incompetence, Eric Boehlert's Press Run looks at why the general public is uninformed about what's actually contained in the Build Back Better bill, especially after ABC's Terry Moran called out Joe Biden for being a "failure" as a leader. As Boehlert points out, the free pre-school alone is a major, transformative policy:

As with other recent surveys, the poll showed that when voters are specifically told what’s in the bill, a clear majority support it. It’s just that most Americans aren’t hearing about the legislation’s sweeping proposals, including the fact that the current framework includes $200 billion in funding to cover free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. Build Back Better also contains billions to help families cover the costs of child care. Together, it amounts to the largest expansion of public education in 100 years.

Focusing instead on the bill’s cost and obsessively documenting the vote-counting process, the press has walked away from its job of explaining legislation.

I've been doing this media beat for a very long time, and this is not news to me. But as usual, reporters are blaming Democrats for distorting their own message. Nothing is ever a failure of the press. What a grift!

When news broke that family paid leave was being dropped from the negotiated bill last week, Haberman tweeted, “Why hadn’t the press educated the public about what’s in the bill,” a mocking reference to liberal complaints that the press hasn’t done that. When a former New York Times reporter pressed her on the issue (“yes, why didn't they”), she doubled down, insisting, “They did. But I realize that criticizing your colleagues is your thing.” (Note how Haberman thinks “criticizing your colleagues” is out-of-bounds behavior for journalists.)

Was Haberman right? Had the press and the Times educated the public about Build Back Better, and specifically in this case about the family paid leave proposal? The answer is no. According to Nexis, there have been nearly 300 Times articles and columns this year that contained references to both “Build Back Better” and “Biden.” Exactly 9 of those also included reference to “family paid leave.”

Horse race coverage. Access journalism. Beat sweeteners. Actual policy coverage? Not worth mentioning. And they can't even bring themselves to connect the dots between policy support and donors. No one should ever write about Joe Manchin's positions without spelling out his deep financial ties to the coal industry. No one should write about him or Kyrsten Sinema without listing their recent flood of donations.

Instead, they accept everything they're told as a good faith argument.

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