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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Political Campaign Coverage: A Question of Substance

Popular election presumes meaningful discourse on current issues and political philosophy so the voters can distinguish the candidates.  Too often, however, the media takes its eyes off the ball and orients its coverage to the process rather than the content.  For example, on the eve of the 2010 US Senate election in Massachusetts, the New York Time reported, “Volunteers and campaign workers staffed phone banks for each of the candidates in the Senate race here, as they concentrated on energizing voters to get to the polls on Tuesday.”  Besides being rather obvious, this topic carries with it an opportunity cost—namely, the article that could have been written on the candidates’ political philosophies that go beyond an obsession on the health-care before Congress at the time.   Although it is short-sighted to use a Senate election as a referendum on a current issue, even that would be better than a focus on the campaigns’ mechanics.
Too often in presidential campaigns, media reports are on the process rather than the issues (forget political philosophies).  Because such campaigns are mostly retail rather than grass-roots (after the first few primaries), most voters rely on the media for information on the candidates.   There is a saying that might be pertinent: garbage in, garbage out.  We could do better.

Source: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/get-out-the-vote-pitches-in-massachusetts/