Started conversation Jan 27, 2002
Much has been made about the media's "deficient" coverage of George Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 election. I would argue that the mainstream print press (the large dailies and wire services) did a more than adequate job covering the issues and pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates. It's true that reporters also spent much ink on polls and personalities, but that's more a product of how modern campaigns are run by the parties and absorbed by the public.
U.S. presidential campaigns are now ridiculously long - major candidates essentially spend 18 months running for office. Their positions on most issues are pretty much set in stone from the time they start spending time in New Hampshire and Iowa coffee shops and are reported ad nauseam in any decent newspaper (television is different beast entirely). The media horde also cover daily polls and the "just what type of guy is Al Gore anyway" type of stories because they are legitimate and because they've got to write about something for 18 months.
The major parties are obsessive about polling - President Clinton essentially lied to the American public about Monica Lewinsky because his pollster told him to - and the results affect how the parties govern and who they present as major candidates. The media would be remiss not to write about polls but must also include context to help people explain what they mean and their shortcomings.
That the press covers personalities is no surprise. Unfortunately major candidates are so bland about issues they essentially run on their personalities - George W. the affable frat guy who wasn't too bright and Al Gore the wonk without a heart. If the major parties are going to make such a big deal about presenting personalities and not politicians to the American people the media would be remiss not to cover this angle is well. I would argue that the main reason Al Gore lost is not because of Florida or Ralph Nader but because he kept switching "who he was" at the behest of his pollsters. Was he a "wimp" a "wonk" or a "bully?" The American people, and I'm afraid Al Gore, never quite figured that one out.
Posted Jan 27, 2002
>If the major parties are going to make such a big deal about presenting personalities and not politicians to the American people the media would be remiss not to cover this angle is well.<
That would be a good point if that had actually happened. However, the media was not "covering that angle" by focusing on personalities. In order to cover it, they would have had to go out and say something along the lines of, "Hey, US citizens, the two major political parties are trying to dupe you into picking candidates based on personalities rather than politics." The coverage they *did* present was merely feeding into the way the major parties wanted their candidates presented.
Also, if the press had asked pertinent political questions, both parties would have had to change their strategies, and start focusing on politics again. I think you are underestimating the role the media plays in telling the American people what's important and what isn't.
Good point about the 18 month campaign though. That certainly hasn't helped things.
Posted Jan 28, 2002
The media certainly must tell the American people what is important, and yes, sometimes they fall short. But people must also be willing to listen intently. Unfortunately most would rather passively watch 30-second spots on TV news instead of picking up The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor or some other publication or broadcast that will ask the hard questions and cover the issues.
Posted Feb 19, 2002
I've just read this article and I have to say I find it unsatisfactory.
The author spends too much time and space, in my opinion, describing alleged press bias. As a Brit I have to tell you that compared with the blatantly pro-Conservative bias the British Public has to endure (it was particularly bad in the 1980's) the examples quoted seemed to me to be trivial. Face the fact, the press will ALWAYS back a conservative candidate over a liberal/socialist one, unless the conservative has some major personality defect, simply because nearly all newspapers are owned by rich businessmen.
The REAL story of the US election, which the article only touches on, is the apparently fraudulant goings-on in Florida. The fact that large numbers of people were prevented from voting. The fact that, as soon as Bush's victory was in doubt, a rent-a-mob appeared to physically intimidate workers trying to perform a recount. The fact that the whole election in that state was organised by the brother of one of the main candidates. Although the UK is by no means a perfect democracy, I have to tell you that any one of these irregularities would be enough to invalidate a British constituency election.
For us in the Rest of the World, watching the events in Florida, it was as if we were seeing coverage of some 'rotten borough' election in 19th-century England, rather than the self-styled 'Leader of the Free World'.
Posted Mar 1, 2002
It seems I need to defend my article. First, I was not describing press bias. I was showing that the press did a lousy job covering the election. This was not "alleged" either, it happened. Maybe as a "Brit" you aren't aware of how superficial and uninformative election news was.
Secondly, the whole Florida mess was *going* to be the main part of my article. I couldn't find any information on it! Keep in mind, the majority of this article was written the month after the election. If you can find good sources discussion impropriety in Florida, I would gladly add that info. However, from my research (and though I do believe that tons of illegal things went on in Florida) any "facts" about the situation would simply be alleged.
Thanks for reading my article though!
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