Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Press and Political Coverage

My favorite Washington political daily, the Politico, carries a highly interesting look at how the media covers politics and why.

Specifically, they asked some of the smartest press secretarties and former press secretaries in town the following question: "Why does the press cover seemingly trivial matters...?"

One of the best answers comes from former Clinton press flack Joe Lockhart:

The media has become a business just like any other business. The press prints and broadcasts what they think their viewers and readers want to read and see. Successful media executives are no longer measured on the quality of the coverage, but on the number of eyeballs they can deliver, not on breaking news, but packaging news. And in a country in love with reality tv, it should be no surprise that the inane will always trump the important.
Another good answer comes from former GOP Congressman Mickey Edwards

Sometimes it's simply the result of a modern-age self-perpetuating cycle: more news outlets and more of them operating around the clock means more time and space to fill which requires in turn yet more copy which fuels a need for still more copy (to fill still more time and space) at a competitive blog or epaper or (bottom of the barrel) CNN, to which a response is required, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
Another former GOP Congressman, Jim Leach, who's now supporting Senator Obama thinks it's the failure of America's "political class" who have failed to produce anything worthy of serious news coverage, leading to a vaccum being filled by trivia.

In contrast, Kennedy School professor Joseph Nye thinks it's fundamentally our fault, although he doesn't fully explain how or why. Perhaps it's because if we demanded more substantial news coverage, even the most profit maximizing corporate news model would provide it?

In short, perhaps we're getting the news coverage we're asking for?

I'd definitely recommend you check out the rest of the responses from former Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry, former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleisher and many others.

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