Rules for reporters: How balanced journalists should cover the election

Considering the mainstream media’s consistently harsh coverage of Republicans and light touch on Democrats, I think it’s time to propose some journalistic standards of fairness. Otherwise, we might have to endure another New York Times-style hit piece, like the one the paper printed four years ago alleging an adulterous relationship between John McCain and a lobbyist. There were zero facts to support the claim.

But reading The Times’s Sunday Review recently I realized how open The Times is to printing hostility toward Republicans. Not only does Frank Bruni hammer Romney for his wealth without ever mentioning he earned all of it, but a cartoon strip on the same page exhorts “don’t be a Romney” and suggests “things to talk about instead of being wealthy.”

And it’s not just The Times, nor other left-leaning media like Comedy Central’s influential, albeit funny, Jon Stewart. Candidate and President Obama has had a free ride for several years from a mainstream media that is either too afraid or too enamored to note or reveal Obama’s flaws, inconsistencies or deceptions.

So here are proposed rules for reporters committed to fair and balanced coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign:

1. TV shots of President Obama and the Republican contenders should show the candidate’s teleprompter in the shot. President Obama is a brilliant orator, but the American public should know that the flawless speeches he gives are scripted and read from a teleprompter. If this practice was adopted, then Mitt Romney’s typical, less-scripted remarks may no longer be characterized by media as “stiff.” In any case, there is no justification to show the TV shot without the teleprompter.

2. Do not refer to Romney’s “wealth” without acknowledging he earned it all himself. Although he grew up in a wealthy family and received a great education, Romney created his own fortune as an entrepreneur. As The Times itself reported, he labored hard at chores in high school, worked as a security guard in college and volunteered as a missionary for two years. More, he is frugal, which is not a typical government leadership trait. Any of these facts would balance mentions of Romney as being “rich” or “out of touch.”

3. Do not refer to Obama’s signature health care law without noting that it was based on the disproven assertion that it would cut the deficit. Just this month the Congressional Budget Office issued corrected numbers showing that Obamacare will cost almost double the original estimate. Not coincidentally, the White House removed from its website the assertion that the health care law cuts the deficit. More, Congress appears poised to jettison the law’s biggest cost savings mechanism — cuts required from the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board.

4. Any discussion of our crippling debt should note its increase from $10.6 trillion to $15.6 trillion under President Obama. Rather than cutting spending, Obama’s policies will increase the debt to $20 trillion by 2021, according to the CBO. When discussing spending, the media should take note of the president’s failure to do anything when given a chance, from ignoring the bipartisan Deficit Commission’s recommendations to attacking Rep. Paul Ryan for leading the House to pass modest cuts in Medicare growth.