Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The SNL Skit and Uneven Coverage of Obama vs Clinton: The Horserace Metaphor and Its Sins...

A colleague pointed to an Associated Press study on March 4, 2008 titled "Study Shows Media Came Down Harder on Obama After 'SNL' Spoof.

He remarked that "It's a pretty sad state of affairs when it takes an SNL skit to finally make the mainstream media do its job."

Oh, it's worse than that. Far worse.

The mainstream press is an embarrassment to us all, most of the time. This is just a particularly flagrant example.

OTOH, Hillary would naturally get more press pressure because she has a history, and it's always hard to pander to a voting audience when you have a history, and it's really easy to snipe because her history is right there easy for everybody to see; Obama doesn't have much history, which would be a bigger problem in a rational world but there's no easy reportage there, and hard reportage comes hard, so they put it off and use the easy story.

Later, when Obama sweeps up the campaign today, starting tomorrow all the press will be on Cheap Shots At Obama duty for the remainder of the campaign. They still won't do any hard work, though.

Another colleague replied that the NPR show "On the Media" made the same points at I watched the podcast and was shocked to find that somebody agrees with me, always a worrying sign.

Someone then pointed out that the press isn't being very hard on Clinton considering all the dirt during Bill's presidency, from Whitewater to Travelgate, from Monica to the health-care planning commission. "It seems like if the press were really tough on her, they'd drag out those old scandals." He says he thinks the press is being too easy, not too hard, and seems unwilling to do any digging at all.

He makes an excellent point, though the podcast above doesn't address it. Clinton has LOT of baggage, but it's now treated as old news -- echoes of Bill's "Put it behind us!"

I get the impression there's a strange kind of two-phase reality for the press when it comes to presidential elections: Phase one, nomination battle: No real effort to dig in and help voters figure out who is the best candidate, or what's up with any particular candidate - Almost all effort is focussed on the horserace aspects. If you hand them something on a silver platter (and the NYT publishes it), then they will cover it -- but only as it impacts the horserace.

Phase two is the main race between the two major party candidates. After six months (or these days, a year and a half) of covering these candidates in the nomination races, the press is bored stiff and desperate for something new, and any raw-meat rumors or scandal or inconvenient fact or contradiction - or something as simple as stumbling down a stair or stumbling over your words -- and they descend like wolves.

Then they spend another period after each episode analyzing the impact of their coverage on -- the horserace!

Is this any way to run the national media?


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