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The Chris Christie Fiasco And The Media

The Chris Christie Fiasco And The Media

(Much of this piece also appeared in

We have all debated exactly how well or badly New Jersey Gov. has done in his essential task of damage control, following the traffic-jam fiasco.

But how did the do?
It is a question that is almost as pertinent. The media will go a long way to determine Christie’s future in national politics.
Did the journalists go too far — or not far enough — in pressing Christie for answers to all of the obvious and not-so-obvious questions?
Reporters are finding themselves in an impossible, no-win situation. They have no blueprint for how to behave. Christie is a master politician, so he has probably either heard all of the hostile questions before or he has a sixth sense for anticipating them.
If the reporters do keep Christie pressed against the wall, they’ll be accused of piling on and being unfair. If they give the appearance of somehow going too easy — not likely — the public will spout that they have an agenda of wanting Christie to continue his march to possible 2016 presidential nomination.
That is the 900-pound gorilla in the room: CHristie’s future political prospects. The media don’t want to look unfair — that is what the journalists fear the most. It is not getting something wrong or going too far in their treatment of Christie.
No, it is THE APPEARANCE that they did so. That would imply that journalists really are all a bunch of biased liberals, exactly as the right has suspected and charged for so long.
So, what is the answer, then? How far should reporters push to get to the truth and treat Christie as they should — and must?
We’re about to find out. The Christie story is not even close to burning out. Eventually, the images of long traffic jams will fade and we will be left with pondering Christie’s political capital. Journalists would be wise not to assume or presume too much. Politicians have a way of constructing nine lives when it looks like they won’t even be able to survive one. That’s why the media shouldn’t be too quick to write the political obituary of Christie.
The reporters would be smart to see how this situation plays out. But chances are that they won’t do that. It’s a lot more fun to play the assume game. Still, they have to figure out the appropriate level of skepticism that they will inevitably apply to the Christie entanglement. The story is just starting to get really interesting, right about now.
Ultimately, of course, Christie’s political future — so far unwritten — will depend on the treatment he receives from the Brian Williams and Diane Sawyers and Scott Pelleys of the world, not to forget the talk-radio hosts and the cable TV talking heads. If Christie can somehow win them over, he has a shot at taking on yet another political life with the media. 
Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire. He is also the author of “Forget About Today: Bob Dylan’s Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution” (Penguin, 2012).

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