Just for shits and giggles, I'm going to (sort of) agree with Glenn Beck. A little.
With the exception of a few ill-advised and feeble attempts to defend McCain, Beck's write-up of the media's "embarrassing" coverage of Obama's Middle East trip is unusually readable. He mentions some facts worth mentioning. Unfortunately I can't tell what he expects anyone to do about it.
I think Beck is cherry-picking to note some of the ridiculous things the media report as "news" – the contents of Obama's iPod or workout routine. There was plenty of coverage about George Bush's iPod and love of mountain biking back in the day. This isn't Obama-specific, it's just the kind of vapid fluff that passes for news these days.
His second point – the vastly larger number of reporters vying for spots on Obama's foreign trip compared to McCain's – is valid. There is no way to ignore the numbers. So we agree on the basic facts. The conclusion is subjective, though. This doesn't prove that "bias" is the problem. Maybe – just maybe – McCain is the problem. He's a phenomenally boring person running a boring campaign utterly devoid of media savvy. He is essentially a walking blooper reel who shows complete disdain for the media (as do his followers). Since the media are in the business of selling newspapers and keeping viewers interested, McCain is poison. Of course they spend as little time with him as possible.
Why is there no story about John McCain's iPod? Well, he doesn't own one. Why are there no stories about his hobbies? Well, he doesn't have any. He's an ancient, surly, out-of-touch person. What is there to cover? How does one write sympathetically about a person who is "aware of the Internet" but never used it? Reporters don't make him sound like your doddering grandfather. He does that himself. So on the fluffy "human interest" stories, McCain is bound to get the short end of the stick. It's hard to do personality coverage of a man who doesn't have one aside from the occasional burst of anger.
What about the "hard news?" Arguably McCain does not get slighted as badly in this category, but the same basic problem exists. Beck says:
And while Obama was flying from country to country this week in a plane packed with celebrity reporters, McCain flew to an event in New Hampshire. After his Boeing 737 landed in Manchester, he stepped out onto the tarmac and glanced at the one reporter who'd bothered to show up. Yes, one.
But why would more than one reporter show up? Does Beck expect that a throng will attend something that has zero news value and even less commercial appeal? The event was a town hall meeting at the Rochester, NH Opera House. Can you think of anything that sounds more boring or less newsworthy? His campaign's media savvy is so bad it's comical. As Obama spoke to 200,000 in Berlin, McCain spoke to six people at "Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant" in Ohio. Are those two events supposed to get equal coverage? Maybe Glenn Beck should direct his anger at whatever asshat McCain has running his media team and setting him up in these ridiculous, humiliating, bush-league "appearances."
If the media are slighting McCain's "message", it's probably because there isn't a single part of it that is new, exciting, or original. Name one policy he has proposed that differs from George W. Bush. I dare you, name one. There is a reason that people do not show up to rallies to scream "WOOO! STATUS QUO! WOOOOO!" Campaigning for a third term of Bush's presidency is what it is. "McCain says: stay in Iraq, keep Bush's tax cuts" hardly makes an interesting headline. Who can even muster the energy to pretend like that's exciting? The media can't.
Reporters are people. They are not robots who can divorce themselves from the demands of their industry and their own sense of what is or isn't interesting. The media would cover McCain's wild rallies or speeches to 200,000 people if McCain had wild rallies or could get 200,000 people to watch him speak. They have less interest in McCain because, as Beck points out, he doesn't sell. But they also have less interest in him because the public has less interest in him. Not necessarily politically (he's polling decently and he'll probably win in the end) but as a Story. We'd sooner watch news stories about an old guy in a nursing home, and we might be hard-pressed to tell the difference.