News Media Won’t Cover Bernie Sanders Because News Media Won’t Cover Bernie Sanders

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his presidential candidacy Thursday, lamenting a broken political system.
Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his presidential candidacy Thursday, lamenting a broken political system. –Alex Wong/Getty Images

There’s been much made about the “irony’’ of a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. The ruffly-haired, junior senator from Vermont, who is fervently against big money in politics, supposedly needs big money to compete.

Bloomberg ran an article last month titled “Bernie Sanders Hates Campaign Cash, the Very Thing He’ll Need to Beat Hillary Clinton.’’ The Boston Globe’s James Pindell wrote Tuesday: “If Sanders stands a shot, it would be through a few people willing to giving millions to a Super PAC – a concept he abhors.’’

The real irony is that the news media is dismissing any chance of something else Sanders needs: help from the news media. He said it himself during the announcement of his candidacy Thursday.

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“This is not the Red Sox versus the Yankees,’’ said Sanders. ‘This is the debate over major issues facing the American people…and I ask the media’s help — allow us to discuss the important issues facing the American people and let’s not get hung up on political gossip.’’

“We now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy political candidates,’’ said Sanders, pledging a campaign based on small, individual contributions.

“If the press is smart enough to grasp it, his entrance into the race makes for a profound storyline that could force all of us to ask some very uncomfortable questions,’’ wrote Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

How — and how much — to cover longshot candidates is not a new dilemna for political newsrooms, and it is especially important for candidates like Sanders, who don’t have much money.

In an On The Media podcast interview, New York Times editor David Leonhardt said outlets have to balance the respective coverage of each candidate’s policies with honesty with readers about which candidate can realistically win.

But host Brooke Gladstone shot back that the media ignores candidates with less cash on hand.

“Everything is stacked up to talk about money and perception and that’s it. That is it. It never gets more than a nanoparticle deep into actually what ails our political system,’’ she said.

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And Sanders is the type of candidate who loves going deep on policy. In 2014, the National Journal bemoaned his tendency toward “bleak statistics and wonky digressions.’’

“Phrases like ‘chained CPI’ and ‘real unemployment’ feature prominently, along with endless talk of the Koch brothers and their abettors on the Supreme Court,’’ continued the article.

Sanders says he hates how money has inundated politics and horse-race coverage it perpetuates. In his Thursday press conference, he said he has never run a negative ad.

During the Thursday news conference on the Capitol Hill lawn, Sanders briefly outlined a few possible policy differences with Clinton. He voted against the Iraq War, he opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and he publicly fought the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sanders — the longest serving independent member of Congress in U.S. history — will run in the Democratic primary, because in his words, “it’s easier to get on the ballot, you can get into the debates, and the media will take you more seriously.’’

Maybe.

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