Media's failures in presidential campaign: How to play favorites (but deny it)
They'll deny it if you ask them, but the mass media play favorites. They'll tiptoe around the issue, or try to convince you that they are merely "giving the people what they want." But when you boil it all down the truth remains the same: they're playing favorites. Political favorites, that is. And that spells danger for democracy.
The current presidential election is a perfect example. The American people have been told by the mass media who the "real" candidates where before and had the nominees picked and the primaries aren't even over yet.
One of the candidates who got the extreme short end of the stick was Alan Keyes. If you don't know who Keyes is you're not alone. The media have done a good job of hiding him from the public eye.
Case in point: Compare the coverage the New York Times has given to Al Gore to the coverage given to Keyes. The New York Times developed these online sites to keep the voters updated on the latest campaign coverage, and give them a place to look at the past coverage as well. But a quick look at these two sites will show you that the coverage has been far from equal. As of the end of the semester, Keyes' page hadn't even been updated since March 14th!
Look now to the Washington Post. Part of its campaign coverage includes a picture Gallery Archive. This archive includes picture narratives for many of the candidates. But look closely, there's no link to look at pictures of Keyes.
The examples of media neglect for Keyes go on and on and on. But why had the media decided to turn a deaf ear to his message? Keyes blames the media for being racist and trying to manipulate the election. During a debate last January Keyes was asked about how he felt about his standing in the polls. His response was, "I think these polls are phony to begin with. They are a manipulated result aimed at trying to usurp and preempt the choice of the American people. But there have been some of these phony polls lately that show me ahead of people you've given more attention to, including folks who are standing right next to me right now. When I first stepped forward, the only thing people in the media wanted to ask me about was race . . . the press refused to ask me about anything but racial issues."
He went on to say, "Polls came out in the past couple of weeks . . . that showed me third in this race. And suddenly I found that people in the face of those polls were acting as if it has become a two-man race, because they wanted to continue the black-out, which means that you keep the black out. I'm sick of it."
Have I just imagined all this? Is it all in my mind that the media is ignoring this candidate? Lance Morrow, in his article "Alan Keyes, We Hardly Got to Know You" says, "The point of a presidential campaign should not be to choose the winners before the game begins, but to develop candidates over time, like a slow Polaroid, in the public mind, over a period of months, and to persuade ourselves that one of another of them might, indeed make a president . . . but the current, bunched-up primary system means we hardly get to know [Alan Keyes]."
David Limbaugh, a reporter for World Net Daily puts it more poetically. He says "There is simply no escaping the conclusion that the mainstream media forfeited their role as government watchdogs long ago and became big-government lapdogs. If they were doing their job of informing the public, candidates wouldn't have to spend so much money, and their pet cause of campaign finance reform would be largely unnecessary."
Those lucky few who have actually been able to hear what Keyes has to say agree that he is the best man for the job, but don't feel that he will win because of the unfair way he's been treated by the media.
Melissa Betts, a Utah State University student and a registered voter, wants to vote for Keyes, but is afraid that because of the way the system is set up, Keyes won't even be on the ballots come November. "I think Keyes is exactly what this nation needs. After the immorality that has been in the White House this past eight years we need somebody of his moral character to get us back on track. But nobody even knows who he is. I talk to my family and friends about him and they're clueless, and I think it's the media's fault. The media should be informing the American people of all the candidates and then letting us chose for ourselves. Isn't that what the founding fathers had in mind?"
The media need to take a close look at themselves, and re-evaluate their role in American politics. Keyes said it best: "This is not some kind of stupid horse race where we're trying to pick the winner, The voters are supposed to determine the winner, not pick the winner. And there's a big difference there. We're not running in some sort of race to see who finishes first. We ought to be involved in a deliberative discussion that results in a choice that is going to be good for America. And if you believe that you offer that choice, and you're the best choice the country can make, I think you have an obligation to stand forward, regardless of what you think your chances are -- because people can't make a choice they're not given."