Friday, June 27, 2008

Pardon the Cynicism

Yesterday I posted about coverage of Pat Tiberi (R-Genoa Twp., OH-12). This is why:

A few weeks ago, Tiberi is assigned to help head up a small group that is tasked with figuring out why three red districts voted for Dems in special elections, and how to prevent the trend from continuing.

Yesterday, that group discusses their conclusions with GOP house leaders.

The conclusions, as reported by the AP? 'GOP candidates on the ballot in November must show "deep empathy towards the voters" and rely on local rather than national issues...'

Yesterday's coverage of Pat? Two pieces by an intern posted to the Daily Briefing by reporter Jonathan Riskind- One, Tiberi's self-congratulatory statement on his recent commitment to helping foster children and the other his story about a willingness to hunt down missing stimulus checks.

Now, I agree with the working group of Republicans that the Republican 'Brand' is in the toilet, that their conservative themes are not resonating with voters, and the methods they've used to win elections in the recent past are not likely to succeed in close races this year. I completely understand the campaign strategy of making empathetic appeals to voters based on local issues and constituent services while downplaying domestic and foreign policy issues. It really is their best/only hope, and I must admit that cynical empathy beats cynical wedge-driving in terms of the quality of long-term societal impact.

What I do have a problem with, is that while Mr. Tiberi is perfectly entitled to spin his own record and attempt to make himself seem "deeply empathetic" to voters, our news media should not be blithely aiding and abetting naked campaign activity. Mr. Tiberi told his hard-core Republican buddies "This is how you need to campaign," then he talked to media personnel and gave an example of campaign speech, which was then reported as straight news, rather than as campaigning. When this happens to a brand new reporter at a community weekly (or an intern, for that matter), I can certainly forgive them for not realizing right away that they are being used. When their mentors and editors engage in the activity, though, I'm a lot less forgiving.

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