Campaigns: Whose Agenda Is It?
(Page 2 of 2)
There was nothing out of the ordinary here as traditional political campaigns go. It is hard not to characterize such campaign stops for all candidates as anything but a pseudo-event. In his remarks the President was critical of the Congress, praised political leaders in New Hampshire, and answered a few questions from the largely Republican audience. Issues were addressed in a cursory fashion.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
After his speech the President shook hands with dozens of people as a hired TV crew filmed the handshaking for a future campaign commercial.
Writing in a Harvard report about presidential campaign reporting, John Ellis of the Barone Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, says, "To many voters the whole [campaign] process seems not only disconnected from their day-to-day concerns but also deeply disturbing in what it seems to be saying about the political process."
The swift pace of campaigning, the accumulative disorderliness of it as all the candidates compete to be seen and heard, adds up to a kind of headlong chaos.
Roger Ailes, the Bush media consultant during the l988 campaign, thinks the press covers politics for three reasons, "pictures, mistakes, and attacks," which in itself is a catchy sound bite. Mr. Ailes says as campaigns evolve, they and the press often lose touch with people.
Hal Bruno, director of political coverage for ABC News says, "Do campaigns get removed from people? If they do, it's fatal. It's important that not only the news media stay in touch with people, but also campaigns. Smart campaigns do not disconnect from people."
At NBC News, political director Bill Wheatley thinks TV coverage of the campaign is already different from l988. "We have taken considerable pains to ensure that our coverage goes beyond the horse race," he says. "We meet regularly and define important stories to be done. For instance, during the first week of the Clinton story [on his alleged adultery], 'NBC Nightly News' used less than four minutes to cover it. Coverage on the issues [was] quadrupled. It's very interesting that no one noticed."
Just after the President's State of the Union address, CBS offered viewers an opportunity to call a toll-free number to express their reaction to the President's speech and the economy. The program drew a staggering number of responses: 24.6 million calls.
WE used a fairly heavy dose of technology that we hadn't used before," says Lane Vernardos, director of political coverage at CBS. "This represents a significant ratcheting up of the [attention] we're paying to the issues in l992 versus l988." The program was the first in a month-long discussion of issues on various CBS programs.
The other networks will offer various specials on issues between now and the general election. For instance, on Feb. 2, CNN offered two documentary films under the title of "The People's Agenda" and will present several more during the year. On cable stations, C-Span regularly offers complete speeches of the candidates and coverage of the campaigning.
"There's a fundamental difference so far this year as compared to l988," says Mr. Wheatley at NBC News. "It's what the candidates are talking about, and what the voters are interested in. The fact is, we're in a major recession, and the public is focused on issues. If you go through the [media] coverage already, I think you will have already seen an improvement."