The battle for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party has been dominating the news media of late – particularly on cable television, where a recent study shows it pulling down over 60% of the medium’s available time. But according to the Columbia Journalism Review, citizens often aren’t getting the information they seek, which is where candidates stand on the issues.
According to the latest Project for Excellence in Journalism numbers, cable lavished fully 64% of its coverage on the presidential derby.
Yet, in South Carolina, CRJ was finding voters who said that the electronic media was focusing on splashy side issues and horserace stories, and ignoring what they really wanted – information of the policy goals of each candidate.
Writing for CRJ, Erike Fry said one woman was not at all interested in hearing about Mitt Romney’s tax returns – she wanted to know what he planned to do if elected. She said she gets news from Fox and occasionally the New York Times, but was getting better information from Charleston SC daily newspaper The Post and Courier.
Another cited CNN and local TV as news sources, but also said the most pertinent info was being provided by The Post and Courier.
The Fox viewer said that the newspaper went to the trouble of providing information about competing platforms and philosophies, and provided histories of the candidates.
CRJ suggests that the media cannot ignore hot stories that are invariably tied to any campaign, but it can’t be all about tax returns and past wives/girlfriends and verbal gaffes. The media must also be mindful at all times of the voter’s need for information about where the candidates actually stand on the issues.
RBR-TVBR observation: When we first started voting, the League of Women Voters in our area used to put out detailed portraits of each candidate, which included their positions on key issues. The positions were provided by the candidates themselves and were presented to us without any kind of filter. To us, that is still an ideal to strive for.
This kind of coverage is not possible for a broadcast outlet, at least on air – but there is nothing preventing the provision of this kind of coverage on a station’s website. 21st Century technology means that any media outlet with a strong presence in journalism can fulfill this vital information, of critical importance in maintaining a well-informed public and a strong democracy.
Put it together, promote it, trumpet it in your public file, and super serve the public interest. It’s worth doing.