A great example of media spin’s continuing power

The latest edition of Andrew Ferguson‘s “Press Man” column in Commentary offers an interesting example of the continuing relevance of mainstream media outlets to shape public perception. The example starts with a summer article in the Washington Post with the headline “Bain’s Firms Sent Jobs Overseas.”

The company founded by Mitt Romney, the first sentence announced breathlessly, “owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to call centers and factories” abroad. The next two paragraphs oddly shift focus, quoting Romney on the campaign trail, talking tough against cheap labor in China and pledging to “bring employers back to the United States.”

Neither quotation is relevant to whether Romney and Bain “shipped jobs overseas,” so it takes a while to figure out why Johnny Deadline [Ferguson’s name for the media type who prepared the Post report] plopped them in the story. I can save you time: Readers are meant to understand that Romney is not only a callous businessman but a hypocritical candidate.

Mere hours went by before David Axelrod, Obama’s majordomo, got the message. He released a statement expressing his shock and revulsion at Romney’s “breathtaking hypocrisy.” The Obama campaign peppered reporters with the Post’s story, which already had the smell of a campaign press release. The next day, the president showed that he was particularly impressed with Johnny Deadline’s use of the word pioneers.

“Pioneers!” the president hollered in Florida. “Let me tell you, Tampa, we do not need an outsourcing pioneer in the Oval Office.” A few days later: “Just last week, it was reported that Governor Romney’s old firm owned companies that were ‘pioneers’ — this is not my phrase, but how it was described in the report — ‘pioneers’ in the business of outsourcing American jobs to places like China and India!” Over the next 10 days, Obama’s radio and TV ads repeated the word so often, it’s surprising they didn’t show Romney and his Bain colleagues wearing coonskin caps.

Remember where the word “pioneers” originated. Some reporter or editor thought it would look good in a newspaper lede.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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