Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Campaign Challenge

The polls for the 2008 presidential election may not open up for another year-and-a-half but you'd never know that by watching television news. Television stations and cable outlets have already commenced their wall-to-wall campaign coverage.

As presidential hopefuls such as John Edwards, Hilary Clinton, John McCain and Mitt Romney have already started making the rounds in Iowa and New Hampshire, the media has been there every step of the way.

Last week, Elizabeth Edwards' struggle with cancer seemed to be the top of most news broadcasts and just yesterday the media switched its focus to campaign fundraising as Clinton and Barack Obama revealed the enormous amount of money they both have received through contributions already.

The Associated Press recently reported that this year’s campaign stories through Feb. 27 have used 95 minutes of coverage on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts. This is not counting the campaign coverage on 24-hour cable news networks.

Furthermore, according to the AP, the network coverage this year spans more time than in comparable periods for the previous four presidential election cycles combined.

I have to stop and every campaign stop newsworthy? So what if Clinton was in Michigan kissing babies, shaking hands, and giving the latest version of the same old campaign speech? Candidates are media trained and have a team of professionals crafting their every move.

In what is shaping up to be the longest presidential campaign season ever--how can we as journalists dig beneath the painted on smiles and keep the important issues relevant? Our biggest struggle will be finding the freshest take on the same old campaign news.

I've seen too many stories on the mundane life details of the presidential hopefuls. I can tell you Mitt Romney's favorite food and where John Edwards' likes to vacation, but I know very little about their voting records on a number of issues. I want to see more informative stories about their previous political decisions.

However, conversely, I don't want to see a repeat of the Dan Rather swift boat disaster, where one network's quest for the scoop led to extreme embarrassment, not to mention the demise of a few careers.

Don't rely on the campaign stops in and of themselves to produce news. In every interview and at every speech, you can almost guess what you are going to hear from the candidates, where is the news in that?


At Friday, April 06, 2007, Blogger AG said...

I agree. I'm getting to the point where I find myself disinterested in the news because of the fact that coverage is devoted, much of the time, to campaigns. How are networks going to keep this up... I often find myself wondering. I realize that some of the information is newsworthy. I was interested to hear that Obama had in fact made major strides in campaign findraising, but I am not interested in every stop each presidential hopeful makes. I honestly do not find that newsworthy. I guess, though, I better get used to it. Doesn't seem to be lightening up anytime soon.

At Friday, April 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I for one am not a political junkie and I agree with the preceeding comment in that news surrounding the campaigns is uninteresting to me. But from a business perspective, I am sure the candidates are loving what this blog deems campaign-coverage overload. THink of the extra facetime that is essentially given to them without the advertising costs. Furthermore, the news allows their campaign to reach the entire country; another plus. Additionally, networks will keep this up because the public wants to continue to get to know their candidates. And for everyone involved, excessive coverage seems to be a win-win situation, as distracting and undesired I find it.

At Friday, April 06, 2007, Blogger MK said...

This coverage will only further the gap between what politicians are doing and what the public knows. The media will quickly tire of reporting issue stories and will stick to horse-race coverage and polling to drive their content. What a disservice to the public. If the media is a watchdog, how can they faithfully serve the public by simply updating who is polling higher or who has more money? They can't and they won't. It's a devastating process. This race is particularly incredible. Full on campaigning more than a year before primaries and 20 months before the election?! It can't be!! It's not good for candidates (they have to raise absurd amounts of money), or for the voting public (they have to suffer through it!). Meanwhile, don't these candidates have jobs?! As senators or governors - so who is watching their post?? The democratic process can only be hurt by this whole mess. By the way, have you heard that states are moving their primaries up? Oh no.

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