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Acceptable Campaign Coverage?

Acceptable Campaign Coverage?

In this lull in the campaign cycle, post-primary but pre-convention, it seems like a good time to mull over just what is proper campaign coverage.

If you’re reading this, you probably agree with us that the 24-hour media cycle hasn’t produced an improvement in the news, and instead it’s often produced non-stories that get hyped far louder than real stories.

I started this column to try to get an angle on the campaigns that wasn’t being covered, this time around. I’ve interviewed ground-level supporters of candidates and talked to people in different states about their primary processes. Even brought you an interview with a congressional candidate. I wish I could do more, but I’m just one girl on no budget with a million other things to do that actually pay the bills. That’s the problem with journalism these days, really—the blogosphere may be on one hand the great equalizer, but it still requires people to have time, money, and energy to blog. Professional journalists get paid to do what they do, so they should have time to find the real stories. When you’re waiting for someone like me to find them, well, you may have to wait a long time.

So, what kind of coverage should good journalism provide during a presidential race? Is it important to discuss whether or not John McCain was actually born in the United States, or is it more important to discuss the fact that he hasn’t voted in the Senate since April 8? And if we mention that, is it fair to note that Senator Ted Kennedy did show up to vote on the Medicare bill, and that a little while back, the Webb G.I. Bill passed with only three senators not there to vote on it–one of whom was Kennedy, who was hospitalized with a brain tumor, and one of whom was McCain? At a time when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were still battling it out over the nomination, they both made it back to vote for benefits for our troops. The candidate who claims to support the troops the most couldn’t be bothered.

Is it important to discuss Jesse Jackson’s comments in relation to Barack Obama, or is it better to discuss Obama’s apparent shift on FISA to support a ‘compromise’ bill that still included immunity for telecommunications companies that went along with illegal wiretap requests? Returning to something I’ve already mentioned for a second, is it fair for Obama to use McCain’s birth outside of the U.S. as an issue since he’s already been attacked for being too foreign?

We should know that racist attacks have no place, yet they come with increasing frequency–Fox’s particularly virulent comments about Michelle Obama being Barack’s “baby mama” being one that was both racist and sexist. And while we’re at it, should we talk about the spouses at all? Are Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain important partners in their husbands’ campaigns, or are they independent people whose lives–and cookie recipes–should be off limits?

This, of course, is just recent stuff. There’s plenty more floating around out there. The problem is, of course, that most of you probably have even less time than I do to go sifting through it.

A friend recently suggested that the campaign cycle is ridiculously long and a waste of money (well, that’s not really a suggestion–he’s absolutely right), and that we’d be better off if we shortened it to a month or two, and maybe then we’d just get issues coverage. Being the cynic about the media that I am, I disagree and think we’d still get fluff coverage because there’d be less time and money for media outlets to spend on real journalism, so they’d revert to what’s cheap–whatever the opposing campaign has dug up and thrown out there for the world to see.

I don’t know how to fix the media mess we’ve gotten into. I do my little bit of covering the issues, the ones I see as important, but here I’m throwing questions out to you. What kind of coverage is fair game? What do we need to know about these candidates to make a fair decision?

Email me responses and I’ll post ’em up here.

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