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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Considering the News

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Last Sunday, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, wrote an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times that was highly critical of our media’s role throughout the Democratic primary. Her thesis is that the news media is presenting “Cliffs Notes-like” news of the presidential candidates and neglecting its duty to present more analytical and probing segments/articles. She makes a great point that the media has given us pointless information as to whether Barack Obama is a good or bad bowler and how much Hillary Clinton made last year. Here is an excerpt from her article that I feel should be read in its entirety:

Did you, for example, ever know a single fact about Joe Biden’s health care plan? Anything at all? But let me guess, you know Barack Obama’s bowling score. We are choosing a president, the next leader of the free world. We are not buying soap, and we are not choosing a court clerk with primarily administrative duties.

What’s more, the news media cut candidates like Joe Biden out of the process even before they got started. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about my husband. I’m referring to other worthy Democratic contenders. Few people even had the chance to find out about Joe Biden’s health care plan before he was literally forced from the race by the news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed his fund-raising.

And it’s not as if people didn’t want this information. In focus groups that I attended or followed after debates, Joe Biden would regularly be the object of praise and interest: “I want to know more about Senator Biden,” participants would say.

But it was not to be. Indeed, the Biden campaign was covered more for its missteps than anything else. Chris Dodd, also a serious candidate with a distinguished record, received much the same treatment. I suspect that there was more coverage of the burglary at his campaign office in Hartford than of any other single event during his run other than his entering and leaving the campaign.

Who is responsible for the veil of silence over Senator Biden? Or Senator Dodd? Or Gov. Tom Vilsack? Or Senator Sam Brownback on the Republican side?

The media has to be blamed or at least the people running our major news outlets. The New York Times didn’t even do a follow-up piece to Mrs. Edwards’ Op-Ed, inadvertently proving her correct: the media runs with what is light, sensational, and content that helps facilitate advertising dollars.

The top news stories from Monday 4/28/08: “Economic Stimulus Checks Start Coming Today,” Barack and Hillary in a dead heat in national polls (without mentioning either candidates’ policies or remarks on current affairs i.e. gas, housing crisis, Iraq, etc.), and Annie Lebowitz’s photo of Miley Cyrus’ bare back. There was nothing about Bush vetoing the Dodd-Frank housing bill. There was very little on how much home prices had dropped in the first quarter of this year. However, there was a late news story in the dead in regards to whether or not Roger Clemens had an affair with a then underage country singer.

How much longer can we point a finger at a vast majority of our country’s media, which is continuing to abandon news stories that focus on erudite issues that are suppose to inform us and, instead, moves towards presenting more sensational news stories and broadcasts?  A more informative, more vigorous press is our responsibility. We have to want it. And if the news continues to be reported in a “fluffy” manner, that doesn’t stimulate our intellect and leaves us in the dark, then that is just a reflection on what a majority of our country wants to know and to be told.