The media’s influence on this year’s presidential campaign is perhaps more pervasive – and destructive to the democratic process – than ever.
After embracing a pair of long shots, Democrat Bill Bradley and Republican John McCain, in the early going, the media effectively wrote both of them off after the Super Tuesday primaries.
A New York Times headline read, Gore and Bush triumph nationwide, putting nominations in their grasp, while USA Today’s banner read, Gore routs Bradley; Bush takes command.
Headlines like these are hardly objective. Rather, this style of journalism is a synthesis of news, analysis and editorializing. The effect of this type of journalism leaves readers with a rather shallow understanding of the news, and, in this case, of the election process.
In reality, Bush leads McCain 532-225 in delegates, and Bush is barely halfway to the 1,034 he needs to secure the Republican nomination. After Tuesday’s defeat, McCain canceled campaign events and is pondering his future. Bradley, demoralized by the loss and facing constant media scrutiny for his lack of charisma, is expected to drop out of the race Thursday.
Media exaggerations skew public perceptions. A voter who reads that a candidate has already wrapped up the nomination is less likely to vote in the primary. If the press instead focused on issues, voters are more likely to vote with their conscience, the way it ought to be.
From the outset of primary season, the press has focused on who’s winning and who’s making a move instead of issues that matter to voters. The press should be a beacon of objectivity, where voters can turn to find the truth behind all the spin doctoring of politics.
Ultimately, media-fabricated political horse races sell newspapers, but that doesn’t make it right. By taking part in the politics, the press slides down a slippery slope, lessening its own credibility and hurting the democratic process.