What will likely be remembered as one of the longest and most unpredictable presidential races in history is nearing an end. With absentee voting already underway, voter turnout could reach levels exceeding the record turnout in the 1960 presidential election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
Until recently, this campaign cycle actually focused on issues, rather than mudslinging candidates and media mediation. For many of the candidates, campaigning started almost two years ago. It’s hard to believe we’ve been talking politics for this long. Issues like immigration, rebuilding the image of America abroad, social security, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Interestingly, both candidates were written off in the early stages of the race. Barack Obama was pounded by front-runner Hillary Clinton and John McCain’s campaign was disorganized and almost bowed-out altogether. Now the media refuses to hold the candidates to the issues and is pandering to their own wants by turning this into an extended episode of Entertainment Tonight.
Picture this — the media’s responsibility is to put together a thorough “instruction manual” on the processes of democracy. Things to include: pertinent information on the candidates, dialogue about constituents’ concerns, party platforms, and tough questions. The book would be an easy read, using engaging language and relevant supplements. Instead, the media has supplied America with a tattered children’s picture book with “dog-eared” pages, rambling about the colors of states and babbling about reaching the “magic number” of 270 electoral votes.
A prime example of how the public has been let down is coverage of the financial rescue plan. In the early days of the economic crisis, it seems the cable networks only concerned themselves with stirring up hype and fear, instead of actually translating the mess into language everyday Americans can use. No one dissected the minutia of the situation.
Now cable and broadcast channels are talking about the candidates again, but big surprise, they miss the target. Instead of qualifications or platform planks, our “fearless fourth estate” is delving into analysis of Sarah Palin’s appearance on Saturday Night Live or how Barack Obama’s family spends their down-time.
With only a few weeks left in the race, political “analysts” are swarming the networks like hungry vultures. They cram their loaded opinions and self-promoting sound bytes down the throats of unsuspecting viewers. Many of these “analysts” are nothing more than hired mercenaries, looking to boost their ego or reeling-in their next campaign. Don’t get me wrong, a good number of these guests actually care about helping translate political mumbo jumbo into meaningful information for voters.
I may sound cynical. Maybe I am. As a journalist, I’m disappointed that, in many ways, we completely missed the boat on this opportunity to show the nation and world the value of the first amendment. We had the perfect opportunity to shine. With the extraordinary advances in technology, the voice of democracy rests on the shoulders of those who embrace the ideals of free communication. I know it’s difficult staying on message for almost two years, but journalists should push harder. We did have some very bright moments. Many hard working journalists are making a difference in informing the public of issues that affect their lives.
I give the media’s performance during the 2008 Federal Election a “C”. Nice try, but we can do better.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect any entity associated with the author. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2008 Lane Luckie