Do Clinton campaign emails on WikiLeaks warrant extensive network coverage?
When WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, they consumed a good deal of broadcast time from Oct. 10 to Oct. 12.
Most were related to campaign discussion about how to present their candidate favorably.
Are they worth all the coverage?
Consider some of what the networks have reported:
CBS and NBC on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11 respectively covered a Clinton aide’s email discussing the best way to reveal Clinton was against the Keystone Pipeline without seeming “manufactured” or “very political:”
That never happened. Instead, Clinton publicly opposed the pipeline weeks later.
NBC and CBS on Oct. 12 covered correspondence from Clinton aide Huma Abedin debating whether Clinton could avoid answering press questions for a while; Podesta replied that would be “suicidal.”
But reports reveal campaign and communication strategy. Candidates routinely weigh the pros and cons of political moves, so this information is not incriminating or even shocking.
CBS and NBC also covered an email from Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton communications director, saying rich friends influenced News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch to raise his children Catholic:
Donald Trump expressed outrage over her comments at a rally. Palmieri told reporters she was Catholic, and did not recognize this email. (All of the networks noted they could not authenticate the emails.)
ABC did not report extensively on specific emails, but on Oct. 12 it covered an email from Podesta urging Clinton to reach out to prominent Latino politicians. The subject line read: “Needy Latinos and 1 easy call.”
On Oct. 13, CBS’s Nancy Cordes described newly leaked emails to be “staffers talking about everything from tensions between top aides to Clinton’s email scandal.”
While the emails may merit some attention, some say they include nothing more than campaign strategy and office gossip.
New York Times columnist David Brooks said the leaked emails were “boring” on PBS NewsHour Oct. 14.
“Usually if you’re in the height of a campaign, they’re sending out private emails, ripping into so and so, insulting groups,” said Brooks. “But by the standard of what I expected, to get the inside of a campaign, [the leaked emails are] pretty mild.”
Ken Auletta, journalist at The New Yorker, agreed:
“It is useful to confirm how scripted candidate Clinton is, how the staff jockeys for attention and favor, how Podesta reveals the political calculus behind the VP choices,” Auletta wrote in an email. “But any journalist who covers politics should know that this is pretty standard in a campaign, and thus not worthy of the kind of attention the emails received.”
But journalist and author Hooman Majd said it is important that networks thoroughly cover the emails.
“I do think the American public deserves to understand the candidates as well as it can,” Majd wrote in an email, “and if leaked emails open a window into the thinking of one candidate (as the leaked Access Hollywood video opened a window into the character of the other), then I think it is incumbent on the media to cover the issue extensively.”
Trump’s comments often makes headlines, and many times he has criticized the media for working against him. Do the networks feel obligated to report on the emails (perhaps more than they would normally) because they devote so much time to covering Donald Trump’s scandals? Do Trump’s repeated accusations drive coverage?
Auletta said journalists are driven by dropping popularity among the public and criticism.
“There is a persistent reflex among reporters to show how fair and balanced we are,” Auletta wrote. “Journalists … watch Trump assail them for bias and carrying water for Clinton. So they want to show off their ‘manhood,’ their toughness. The Podesta emails are a flagrantly easy way to show off. We should be made of sterner stuff.”
But Majd said the media if Trump were more a “vanilla” candidate, the media might cover the emails more aggressively.
“I think that the networks might actually be surprised that the public doesn’t care more about what is contained in some of the emails,” wrote Majd, “but that is undoubtedly due to the fact that the salaciousness of the Trump campaign, excuse the pun, trumps everything else.”
For more from Ken Auletta and Hooman Majd, click here.