Last week, the University of Denver hosted the first 2012 presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. However, the media coverage of the debate and the resulting political fallout will be the same; both republicans and democrats will try to spin the outcome of the debate in a way that benefits their side. Meanwhile, the news media will overflow with coverage concerning the political impact of the debate, but will ultimately fail to explain if the facts actually fit the claims made by either candidate. Instead, the American electorate was given nonsensical and derivative sports analogies purely to oversimplify what should have been journalistic analysis of policy claims.
By lazily relying on the typical horse-race coverage of elections (i.e. the news media’s focus on which candidate is up or down in the latest public opinion polls), the news media, especially cable news, have abdicated their role as fact checker. These actions further exasperate the inescapable certainty that presidential debates are more about presentation than substance. Consequently, the big news story following any and all debates will inevitably be which candidate “won” divorced from any assessment concerning which candidate, if any, actually had the facts on their side.
This week, the news media will predicatively bombard the American audience with poll numbers along with a bloviated analysis of said poll numbers with a pretentious and misguided sense of accomplishment for delivering the very “news” that they themselves have shaped with their utter lack of journalistic examination. Get ready for hundreds of hours of useless analysis and flagrant political spin; well, until the Vice Presidential debate feeds the horse-race coverage even further.
What changes, if any, would you make to the American news industry to ensure reporting of political events involved more fact checking and less horse-race coverage?
- How much will the debate move the polls? (washingtonpost.com)
- Initial Polls, Media Debate Consensus: Romney Won Big, Obama Lost Big (News Media and Blog Roundup) (themoderatevoice.com)