2004 Elections: Coverage Overload or Coverage Ability?

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

There seems to be a newfound interest in the political race this year, but one that I keep thinking to myself, “Was it this way last time?”

Well, the answer is apparently a resounding “No.”

I found that as the blogosphere grows, more and more folks become PolySci majors (or at least minors) and the middle of the road topic folks become interested in politics. I find that turning on the television, everyone is talking about politics. Sure, Leno and Letterman made fun of candidates before, and everyone would have har-hared it up about Howard Dean if there wasn’t wall to wall coverage, but would we know *everything* that’s going on? Probably not.

NewsHour’s Terence Smith filed a report on the 16th of January about the seemingly saturated coverage of this Democratic primary season. After reading this, I’ve come up with the realization that it wasn’t like this before. It was big, but it wasn’t like this. Part of it may be a 9/11-caused addiction to so called “blanket” coverage of events, and part of it might just be that as technology grows (smaller?), coverage gets bigger.

Smith’s report talks a lot about the handheld cameras that can broadcast back to their stations, without all the “cumbersome equipment” that goes along with the larger cameras we’ve all become accustomed to see in news reporting. These cameras, while seemingly fantastic to have around, have reportedly come up with some interesting shots that never would have been caught had the larger cameras been in use.

So while we’re all looking at this like it’s a big Blink 182 video, we’re apparently getting an all access pass that wasn’t there in previous election coverage.

MediaChannel.org’s Timothy Karr has some quality articles posted on their site that seem to give one side of the story – that the overwhelming amount of coverage is bad. Combine that with the fact that any political talk show has, at one time or another, done “man on the street” interviews with people just to see what politicians they know about and what they know (Sean Hannity is famous for it in NYC), and you’ve got some potential trouble, if those informal polls mean anything at all.

Network Horse Race Coverage Tramples the Issues” talks about how the networks managed to use “those 18 seconds in Iowa as a summation of the candidate himself” when referring to Howard Dean. Just a week later, Karr follows up with “Where’s the Beef? Network 2004 Election Coverage Thin on Issues” which points out a statistic by another media monitoring group, Media Tenor, which reported that “than 5 percent of all [the networks’] coverage of the Democratic presidential campaigns to reporting about the five issues that Americans say they want the candidates to address. The issues are Economy, War/Iraq/Foreign Policy, Healthcare/Medicare, Employment, and Taxes. [source: Media Tenor]

So while you’re definitely seeing more of the candidates, (and I definitely don’t mean a higher number of candidates, as Dennis Kucinich will attest), you’re not necessarily seeing anything that’s helpful for you to make a decision. Unless Botox, screaming, and other assorted ramblings are the fare you choose to dine on before you *choose*.

Leave a Reply