Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The News Media Fails the Electorate

As I've bemoaned about previously, the Writer's Strike has left me making some odd TV/entertainment choices.

Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I watched an entire local news broadcast, which I followed with an entire national news broadcast. And, following that I just listened to two podcast episodes from MSNBC shows.

A fair chunk of the local news was about the '08 campaign, a large chunk of the national news was about the campaign, and the show segments that MSNBC turned into podcast episodes were entirely about the campaign.

But none of it provided any real substance about any issues. There was a lot of horse racing: Who's winning in the polls? and How can Huckabee possibly win if his "war chest" is so small? and Can Hillary come across as personable? and Can Obama come across as experienced? and Does Huckabee really think Romney is a Christian?.

The closest any of all the above coverage came to talking about policies the candidates hold was the local news did a piece that superficially talked about universal healthcare.

I don't want to claim that experience, beliefs, and likability should play no part in how someone votes. They are all characteristics that will play a part in how well a candidate will one day govern. But they are second-class characteristics. What should take center stage in a free democratic republic is issues. Explain where the candidates stand. Let them explain why they stand the way they do. Let the American people hear their explanations and decide if they agree or not.

Maybe the American public - or those that watch the news anyway - simply don't care about the issues, and the news is putting out what sells ads. But I can't help thinking that the national news media is simply lazy, and showing the latest polls and debating the trivial lets them believe they're "covering the election" without actually having to do any work.

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