New Mexico Independent » Elizabeth Edwards takes press to task
In case you missed it, Elizabeth Edwards’ recent column in The New York Times is worth a look. In it, the wife of former Democratic presidential contender John Edwards pleads with the press to do its job: Write about the issues in covering campaigns, not the candidates’ polling numbers or bowling scores.
In a piece entitled “Bowling 1, Health Care 0,” Edwards decries the”shallow news coverage” of the presidential campaign:
… every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.
And she notes that she isn’t the only one who’s noticed:
A report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy found that during the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, 63 percent of the campaign stories focused on political strategy while only 15 percent discussed the candidates’ ideas and proposals.
The shallowness of the coverage is even more egregious when one considers that the 2008 presidential campaign was one of the two overriding stories that “consumed” the media (the other was the war in Iraq) during the previous year, according to The State of the News Media 2008 annual report.
As a political spouse, Edwards wrote that she has seen firsthand the hunger voters have for information to make informed decisions.
… voters who take their responsibility to be informed seriously enough to search out information about the candidates are finding it harder and harder to do so, particularly if they do not have access to the Internet.
Repeatedly, she said, voters told her they’d like to know more about the various candidates and their plans, particularly in the area near and dear to Edwards’ heart: health care.
… the news media cut candidates like Joe Biden out of the process even before they got started. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about my husband. I’m referring to other worthy Democratic contenders. Few people even had the chance to find out about Joe Biden’s health care plan before he was literally forced from the race by the news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed his fund-raising.
Sadly, as Edwards points out, lack of a vigilant, inquisitive press leads to laziness on the part of candidates, who get by without answering hard questions and without producing the policies and proposals the people need to hear — and see carried out.
Worse still, it gives us permission to ignore issues and concentrate on things that don’t matter. (Look, the press doesn’t even think there is a difference!)
Edwards eloquently makes her case, saying the press won’t do the job until voters demand that they do it.
Those who’ve read her book, “Saving Graces,” already know Edwards’ strengths as a writer and observer. (And of her gratitude to the New Mexicans who helped her husband on the campaign trail — specifically, she credits Ryan Montoya of Las Vegas, N.M., and former state Attorney General Patricia Madrid.)
Meanwhile, both John and Elizabeth are holding back on endorsing either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, telling People magazine they’d rather see public attention focused on what really matters: forJohn, fighting poverty; for Elizabeth, universal health care.