We All Scream for Ice Cream!
12-14-2007
A reader, JB, recently sent me an email voicing his frustration over the media’s horse race coverage of the presidential campaign. His concern is that the media’s tendency to anoint frontrunners early in the process makes it difficult for other deserving candidates to break into the coverage as the election cycle progresses.
 
JB writes:
 
It is your stereotypical self-licking ice cream cone. The media say they concentrate on Clinton, Obama, et al, because that's who's garnering the most public attention. I humbly suggest they're garnering the most public attention because that's who media hit the most heavily from the beginning of this endless campaign. I watched part of the Iowa debate yesterday. To my non-professional eyes, both Biden and Dodd were by far the most cogent and presidential of the gaggle. Yet, the talking heads AND the "undecideds" virtually ignored them, discussing instead how more comfortable Obama sounded from his new position of semi-leadership and how brittle and defensive Hillary appeared. I am at a loss to understand this, other than the fact that the media has already counted Biden and Dodd out.
 
I have discussed this same issue with members of the media on a number of occasions. The explanation that I typically hear from them is that an assessment of each campaign’s viability, the need for a compelling story arc that will hold an audience, and their own finite professional resources, combine to produce a dominant political narrative that is often resistant to change, but which can also shift suddenly, in response to new developments on the ground (witness recent coverage of Mike Huckabee).
 
How do media outlets assess campaign viability? They employ the same metrics used by political analysts – size of campaign organization in a state, amount of money raised, quantity of paid advertising, and position in the polls – in order to gauge where to direct their financial resources and manpower for coverage. Several reporters have suggested to me that the horse race critique is less applicable now, given that the internet provides a wealth of campaign coverage options for dissatisfied mainstream media consumers. So, while I was able to find several good debate notices for both Joe Biden and Chris Dodd on the web, that is probably of little consolation to JB, as he tunes into the evening news.

Comments:


Posted On: 12-17-2007 09:28:47 by jay welsh
Dean, Pardon my naivete, but what you're saying is size does count...the size of your bankroll on the one hand, and the size of your Neilson and ABC circulation numbers on the other. Pretty sad and scary way to elect the leader of the Free World. Guess that's how we wound up in the situation in which we currently find ourselves. There's got to be a better, more equitable way. jbw


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