Iowa, conventions and the “new” media

Iowa, conventions and the “new” media
I try to avoid politics in this blog. It’s a sure way to increase comments, but it can also easily sidetrack one’s mission. It’s so bloody seductive (and easy) to enter the shouting match. I also want to be able to comment about this election year from a distance, and that requires viewing the forest, not the trees.

Nevertheless, I can’t resist Dan Rather’s comments in a weekend AP story.

CBS anchor Dan Rather says the day is coming soon when there will be virtually no live coverage of political conventions on television networks.

The Democrats and Republicans are to blame for scheduling four-day conventions that do little except advertise their established positions and candidates, he said.

“I think it’s inevitable that the over-the-airways broadcasters and, for that matter, many in cable either take a pass or reduce their coverage even more than we’ve seen in recent years,” Rather told the Television Critics Association this weekend.

Does anybody else find this extraordinary? Think about it. Before there was television news, there were political conventions. They were news events to be reported. It was television that turned them into the monsters we have today! And now Dan Rather blames the parties for the inevitable, self-serving dog and pony shows? Call me a nut, but…

I had a revelation 25 years ago that helped influence the way I view the media these days. I was running the assignment desk at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee and was thumbing through a magazine by an animal rights group. There was an article on how to get the animal rights message in the press. It was written by a former TV news person, and it was very accurate. The article was “Media Manipulation 101” and based on using our own rules against us. I never trusted anything from any “spokesperson” after that. The lesson was that people with things to gain understand the news business — in most cases — better than those IN the business. This is especially true in television news. We’re an open book for the PR industry. So what’s that got to do with the political conventions?

Plenty. Nobody understands the wants and needs of the media like politicians. Their lives depend on it, so over the years, political operatives have worked with the networks to enable these “big events”. Everybody was a winner; well, almost everybody. The politicos got their exposure. The networks got a chance to show their news gathering muscle. Pundits had enough to talk about for months. The election process was preserved. Democracy was safe.

Then came cable TV and suddenly the competition moved to a new level. The news was swept aside by who could do the most, cover the best, and analyze most intellectually. The parties were more than willing to help, and soon convention coverage was available across the dial. The chest beating continued unabated until one day, people like Dan Rather looked around to see nobody was watching. Nobody paid attention. Nobody cared.

Oops!

So now we have NBC unveiling new shows the week of the Republican National Convention in August and Dan Rather saying that we won’t be duped by this blatant and obvious attempt to advertise candidates. Oh my!

And now it’s the eve of the Iowa Caucuses again. On the surface, everything is same‑o, same‑o. The candidates are stumping. The fur is flying. And the media is obsessed with the horserace. The electoral process, like so many other things in life, is a sporting event. But beneath the surface, a dedicated new class of journalist is working to cut through all of that and give us the view from the ground up. Bloggers are a breath of fresh air this political season.

It will be interesting, to say the least.

Comments

  1. Rather is past his usefulness as an Inserted afghan reporter when we fought russia. Ask him about his bin laden links, his beginnings with a small texas vo-tech college known for agri/opil subservicing and his starts there as a journalist. A plant from the LBJ machine days. He has no merit remaining after the afghan contacts in the 8os make him too close to the initial INTEL network there.

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