I heard Elizabeth Edwards speak about this topic earlier this month in Cambridge at the Kennedy School of Government. The New York Times has now published her Op Ed on the topic of the failure of the main stream media to cover the issues, and the dumbing down of journalism so as to treat the presidential primary race like a soap opera.
News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve.
And the future of news is not bright. Indeed, we’ve heard that CBS may cut its news division, and media consolidation is leading to one-size-fits-all journalism. The state of political campaigning is no better: without a press to push them, candidates whose proposals are not workable avoid the tough questions. All of this leaves voters uncertain about what approach makes the most sense for them. Worse still, it gives us permission to ignore issues and concentrate on things that don’t matter. (Look, the press doesn’t even think there is a difference!)
What “sells” is a narrative composed of soap opera like trivia. The title of Elizabeth’s Op Ed is “Bowling 1, Health Care 0″. To read the entire Op Ed, go to:
This issue really matters. Without an informed electorate, that votes, democracy itself is at risk.
As Elizabeth herself says:
FOR the last month, news media attention was focused on Pennsylvania and its Democratic primary. Given the gargantuan effort, what did we learn?
Well, the rancor of the campaign was covered. The amount of money spent was covered. But in Pennsylvania, as in the rest of the country this political season, the information about the candidates’ priorities, policies and principles – information that voters will need to choose the next president – too often did not make the cut.
Frankly, I don’t care what Obama’s former preacher has to say about anything. I would far rather hear from Obama and Hilary – in depth, about how they would deal with congress, with health care, with education, and with diplomacy.
Instead, we get the distasteful spectacle of a non-candidate’s harangues being given more attention then the candidates themselves! I have some strong opinions as to what may motivate that old man to hog the limelight; so much so I will not even use his name.
The main stream media should not cater to such a circus and waste precious communications media when real information is NOT being conveyed about the candidates themselves.
It is time that you and I demand more from newspapers and radio then a glorified soap opera.