Short answer:  Not very well, and it doesn’t appear they care.

Long answer:

The adulation given to Barack Obama was far more than can be accounted for by his historic run for the Presidency.  It got so bad before the election that Michael S. Malone, a tech journalist for ABC News, got to the point he was "deeply ashamed to be called a ‘journalist’".  Michael explained, back in late October:

For many years, spotting bias in reporting was a little parlor game of mine, watching TV news or reading a newspaper article and spotting how the reporter had inserted, often unconsciously, his or her own preconceptions.  But I always wrote it off as bad judgment, and lack of professionalism, rather than bad faith and conscious advocacy.  Sure, being a child of the ‘60s I saw a lot of subjective “New” Journalism, and did a fair amount of it myself, but that kind of writing, like columns and editorials, was supposed to be segregated from ‘real’ reporting, and at least in mainstream media, usually was.  The same was true for the emerging blogosphere, which by its very nature was opinionated and biased.

But my complacent faith in my peers first began to be shaken when some of the most admired journalists in the country were exposed as plagiarists, or worse, accused of making up stories from whole cloth.  I’d spent my entire professional career scrupulously pounding out endless dreary footnotes and double-checking sources to make sure that I never got accused of lying or stealing someone else’s work – not out any native honesty, but out of fear: I’d always been told to fake or steal a story was a firing offense . . .indeed, it meant being blackballed out of the profession.

[…]

But nothing, nothing I’ve seen has matched the media bias on display in the current Presidential campaign.  Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates.  But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass – no, make that shameless support – they’ve gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don’t have a free and fair press.  I was one of the first people in the traditional media to call for the firing of Dan Rather – not because of his phony story, but because he refused to admit his mistake – but, bless him, even Gunga Dan thinks the media is one-sided in this election.

[…]

The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber.  Middle America, even when they didn’t agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a Presidential candidate.  So much for the Standing Up for the Little Man, so much for Speaking Truth to Power, so much for Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.

Read the whole thing(tm).  Malone is more certainly not against reporters digging for the dirt (he supported the "reportorial SWAT teams" sent to Alaska to see what they could find about Gov. Palin).  What he is aghast at, however, was how utterly unbalanced this hardball treatment was. 

Aside from the viciousness given mostly to Republicans and their supporters, the Pew Research Center found that McCain’s news coverage was incredibly lopsided.

Slightly fewer than a third of the stories about Obama were negative, whereas more than a third were positive and about the same number were neutral or mixed. More than half of the stories about McCain cast him in a negative light, whereas fewer than 2 in 10 were positive, according to Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study suggests that advancement in the polls does translate into more positive coverage, but with the polls so tight this season, bouncing around in the high 40s & low 50s for so long, that explanation doesn’t really fit.

The Washington Post ombudsman, Deborah Howell, also says that her paper tilted towards Obama and didn’t really cover the issues well.  The big question is, will this translate into better coverage?  With the media still in the tank for Democrats after decades of being that way, it doesn’t seem likely.

Just ask Chris Matthews:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, well, you know what? I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work, and I think that —

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Is that your job? You just talked about being a journalist!

MATTHEWS: Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country.

The phrase "speaking the truth to power" is about to drop quickly out of fashion in national media circles.

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.

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