Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Newt's Real Beef with Campaign Coverage?

I'm not going to attempt to psychoanalyze Newt Gingrich, a very complicated man with whom I've exchanged fewer words than I'll use to write this blog. I will do something most writers do not do when addressing a politician's comments; however, I'll examine what he said.

Newt GingrichImage via Wikipedia
Former US House Speaker Gingrich
Viewers remember the exchange between Speaker Gingrich and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace during the Iowa GOP debate. Gingrich accused Wallace of using "gotcha questions" and "playing Mickey Mouse games". Wallace responded by stating that he was sorry if Gingrich thought questions about his record were "Mickey Mouse". It was interesting political theater, but it missed Gingrich's real point while proving that he was exactly right.

Do you remember the point Mr. Gingrich was making? It was a legitimate issue that challenged journalists and political analysts in an area where they should be held accountable. In that same exchange with Wallace, Gingrich said the following, from the debate transcripts:

GINGRICH:  I'd love to see the rest of tonight's debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead . . .
GINGRICH:  I think that there's too much attention paid by the press corps about the campaign minutia and not enough paid by the press corps to the basic ideas that distinguish us from Barack Obama.(APPLAUSE)

Gingrich challenged the press to address real issues and report candidate ideas. The irony is that while Gingrich's remarks were covered in the context of his overt challenge to the press, the thrust of his argument was overlooked, thus proving his point. The media is much more concerned with "minutia" than with providing information that would help voters determine the next leader of the free world.

The press has developed a tendency to cover elections as if they are athletic contests. I can't tell you exactly when that happened, but it has happened. Political press coverage is now more about campaign strategy than about substance. The electorate is suffering because coverage of ideas and strategies about how to govern our country is being crowded out by coverage of candidate tactics and advertising campaigns.

I've long been a proponent of questions about why candidates believe what they believe and how they will fulfill their promises if elected. In matters of obtaining information from candidates, journalists are our representatives, but they have generally done a poor job. 

Modern journalism is largely responsible for a political system that rewards good packaging over a substantive product. Sadly, they are not alone in their guilt. The average American voter seems to prefer reporting on campaign mechanics over issues coverage and so we have received what the majority prefers.

Electing an official using only the media coverage received by the average voter would be like buying a used car based solely on the size and color of the cup holder. Polls of fellow citizens, who represent the "average adult voter" are reported as if they were delivered to Moses on a mountaintop. Those polls are influencing who will be the next President of the United States and frankly, I wouldn't allow the "average adult voter" to influence my choice of peanut butter. It is utter madness and Newt Gingrich is right that the people deserve to see substantive reports on the things that matter.

by Ken Carroll

DISCLOSURE: I have made no decision to support a specific US Presidential candidate at this time and I am in no rush to do so.

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