Steve Hendricks, Columbia Journalism Review - For not going with the flow, and for challenging Hillary Clinton, the big fish many elites have tagged as their own, Sanders’s entry into the race was greeted with story after story whose message—stated or understated, depending on the decorum of the messenger—was “This crank can’t win.”
The trouble with this consensus is the paucity of evidence to support it. “This crank actually could win” is nearer the mark. But having settled on a prophecy, the media went about covering Sanders so as to fulfill it. The Times, for example, buried his announcement on page A21, even though every other candidate who had declared before then had been put on the front page above the fold. Sanders’s straight-news story didn’t even crack 700 words, compared to the 1,100 to 1,500 that Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton got. As for the content, the Times’ reporters declared high in Sanders’s piece that he was a long shot for the Democratic nomination and that Clinton was all but a lock. None of the Republican entrants got the long-shot treatment, even though Paul, Rubio, and Cruz were generally polling fifth, seventh, and eighth among Republicans before they announced.
Other coverage of Sanders ran to caricature, as in Paul Kane and Philip Rucker’s personality piece in the Washington Post, which opened, “He seems an unlikely presidential candidate—an ex-hippie, septuagenarian socialist from the liberal reaches of Vermont who rails, in his thick Brooklyn accent, rumpled suit and frizzy pile of white hair, against the ‘billionaire class’ taking over the country.” The Post’s pieces didn’t lead with Clinton’s hippie past or her age (she will be a septuagenarian in 2017) and didn’t say she rails when she discusses her more ardently held positions (she has a couple). Even the word “liberal,” which doesn’t seem the worst quasi-pejorative to hang on a candidate who calls himself a socialist, sits poorly next to the flattering “populist” that the Post permitted Clinton, especially since she is a mere recent and rhetorical convert to the creed that Sanders has acted on for 40 years.