Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Poor Media Coverage of Campaigns and the New Internet

Long before he became chairman of Fox News Channel, Roger Ailes (el - when he was paid to be a GOP shill by the GOP instead of advertisers) had sketched the limited horizon of campaign journalism: "There are four things the media are interested in," he said back in 1988. "They're interested in polls, they're interested in pictures, they're interested in mistakes, and they're interested in attacks." I would add some items to that list: money-raising, dissaray and infighting within a given campaign, the so-called "character" issue (and the revelations that may or may not illuminate it), the role of key advisers and consultants, the art of positioning the candidate-- and of course, any possible plot turn in the horse race. That's ten story lines, but only one narrative. (And here's nine alternatives.)

According to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, the national press is busy jamming the race into its usual story frame of who's-gonna-win, which gets very dull if one candidate has already won. So the search is on for the Leading Challenger, a figure required by another figure, the Front Runner. Here is Kurtz on a current trend in press coverage: (See Dec. 22 entry)

[Frank Rich] charges that shifting coterie--the Washington establishment--with being condescending and simple-minded about the Net, unable to get a fix on Dean and what's happening around the candidate, even though the information is available. That includes reporters, pundits, other candidates, party insiders.

Rich wants to switch historical comparison points, from figures positioned like Dean ideologically (McGovern and Goldwater, according to common analysis in the press) to figures poised to make the leap Dean is making with technology.

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