Fri, April 03

Letter: The rest of the story


As a former journalist, I read with interest Mr. Barber's column regarding the disparity of media coverage during the presidential campaign. The media studies he cites are interesting. But they fail to consider one very important truth - news coverage is dictated by the news itself - i.e., if the news media covers a crime or a disaster, the news will be negative because the event itself was negative.

The fact is that Senator McCain ran a very negative campaign. For whatever reason, he chose to base his campaign on smearing his opponent. McCain and his supporters used every media opportunity to talk negatively about Obama. Since McCain's campaign was almost entirely negative, not surprisingly, much of the coverage of his campaign was negative. President-elect Obama, on the other hand, ran a campaign based mostly on the issues, relevant aspects of his opponent's record and hope.

Unless you've ever worked for a news organization, you may not understand that everyone wants to use the media for their own selfish purposes. Prior to elections, news organizations are flooded with so-called "news releases" and emails full of spin and fluff. It's the responsibility of the media to cut through the spin to get to some sort of news or truth.

The only way for a news organization to be truly "balanced" is to invite the candidates and their surrogates to discuss the issues and events of the day. Unfortunately, that usually results in two people reciting memorized "talking points" and trying to shout down one another. It abdicates journalistic responsibility. And it's seldom helpful to the public. But it is "balanced."

Mr. Barber assumes media bias because some media organizations didn't give broad coverage to the Rev. Wright story, Bill Ayers story, the ACORN story, etc., etc. I can't speak for the editorial boards, but it's likely that they decided that "there is no there there." Rev. Wright is a former Marine who served his country and his community well, and his sensational comments were taken out of context. Also, Bill Ayers is now a respected figure in Chicago educational circles where he and Obama served on a board created by a conservative Republican. These stories were covered early in the Democratic primaries. There was little reason to rehash them for the general election.

As for ACORN, it has long tried to register minority and low income voters. To do that, ACORN hires people to register voters and pays for each form filled out. Occasionally, some of the people hired take advantage of ACORN by filling in fictitious names. Before ACORN returns all of the registration forms (which it's required to do) it separates the forms into three groups - good, bad and questionable. Those that cannot be verified are not allowed to vote. The media may not have devoted a lot of time to cover ACORN, but neither did they cover the voter suppression attempts by the GOP.

As for Mr. Barber's concerns about uninformed voters, I agree. It's sad that so few people take the time to really understand the issues at stake in an election. In the past, negative campaign tactics were able to exploit the uninformed. But when the issues facing the nation are as large as those in this election, no amount of campaign smears could hide them. However, we should all take the time to inform ourselves before every election, at every level. We should examine the candidate's platforms. And we should seek information from a variety of media. Yes, including the mainstream media.

Gary LaMaster


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