The Wall Street Journal, NPR, The New York Times, and other mainstream media have engaged in an obvious and silly boycott of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Report after report about the Republican primary excluded him, though occasionally they’d mention his name—to be fair and balanced. For example, the media coverage on October 11 ahead of the GOP debate that evening looked like this:
- The Wall Street Journal’s front-page article, “Debates Take Candidates for a Bumpy Ride,” didn’t mention Ron Paul.
- The New York Times’ front-page article, “Five Things to Watch for in the G.O.P. Debate,” mentioned Ron Paul’s name at the bottom, in a parenthetical remark that acknowledged his presence.
- NPR’s four-and-a-half minute report covered Sarah Palin’s and Chris Christie’s exit from the race; Herman Cain’s from-the-outside strategy; Mitt Romney’s 25% ceiling and his “Mormon problem”; and Rick Perry’s lousy performance during debates. But no mention of Ron Paul.
Ron Paul simply didn’t exist. Maybe the mainstream media were trying to relegate him to oblivion because his anti-Fed and anti-war viewpoints were inconvenient. But even people who weren’t supporters of Ron Paul were outraged: a democracy that wants to be vibrant needs adequate news coverage of major political players. And their outrage lit up the blogosphere, social media, and other outlets.
But a new era has dawned: The New York Times has discovered Ron Paul. Or were the editors afraid that, by sticking to their boycott, they’d have to make do with this headline: “Romney finishes second in Iowa Caucus, Perry Third, and Gingrich Fourth.” Which would have been a riot.
Instead: “Paul Moves into Lead in Iowa Forecast,” was today’s headline in the NYT. The article discussed the dynamics in Iowa, where Ron Paul is now expected to beat Romney and demolish Perry and Gingrich. And then the author mused that “…all bets would be off if Mr. Paul won New Hampshire too.”
I was stunned to read this in the NYT. And there was one article after another that at least mentioned Ron Paul in some significant way. So I did some counting:
- December 19: 5 articles (as of noon)
- December 18: 6 articles
- December 17: 4 articles
- December 16: 11 articles
OK, a couple of them were by Paul Krugman who was firing off ineffectual broadsides at Ron Paul. But others were outright positive.
For example, an article today on Gingrich’s tax plan paid a compliment to Ron Paul—the Tax Foundation had given Gingrich’s plan a C+ and Ron Paul’s plan a B (Huntsman scored highest with a B+).
But he hasn’t won the mainstream media battle just yet. Yesterday’s article, “G.O.P. Contests Near, and the Pace Picks Up,” discussed the major Republican candidates:
- Newt Gingrich—3 paragraphs, 168 words (which ironically included “Mr. Gingrich is leading in polls in Iowa”).
- Mitt Romney—3 paragraphs, 181 words.
- Ron Paul—1 paragraph, 73 words.
- Rick Perry—2 paragraphs, 127 words.
- Michele Bachman—2 paragraphs, 133 words.
- Jon Huntsman—1 paragraph, 94 words.
- Rick Santorum—1 paragraph, 41 words.
Of all the contenders, the leader in Iowa, Ron Paul, was given the second smallest piece of verbal real estate. Nevertheless, and unlike before, he was there bright and visible.
But it gets better for Ron Paul: “Paul’s Ground Game,’ in Place Since ’08, Gives Him an Edge” admired the depth, longevity, and effectiveness of his campaign organization in Iowa. And even potential issues came across as oblique praise:
His consistent positions over the years also set him apart from other candidates bedeviled by charges of flip-flopping. But they could also undermine him, as his debate performance Thursday highlighted a rigid antiwar stance out of sync with many Republicans.
After reading it, one wonders if the reporter wasn’t secretly rooting for Ron Paul. And it isn’t just The New York Times. NPR and others have followed. This kind of mainstream media coverage is a huge win for Ron Paul—and for democracy in America.