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January 31, 2008

News Media Influencing Candidate Selection

Debate Last night was the Republican debate in California with only two remaining candidates, McCain and Romney. At least that’s the way it looked -- Huckabee and Paul were virtually ignored. In fact the NY Times political blog, The Caucus, summarized it this way: “The debate was essentially between Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney.” (Image © The New York Times)

News articles covering the debate made statements like “The field narrowed, McCain and Romney trade angry charges in the last GOP face-off before Super Tuesday” (LA Times); or “McCain vs. Romney on Iraq” in the Washington Post. Large photos with these articles show only McCain and Romney with only a passing statement about Huckabee or Paul in the articles themselves. Even Fox News.com, which portrays itself as fair and balanced, focused only on Romney and McCain. At least their photo showed all four candidates.

These articles give voters the impression that their only choice is now Romney or McCain with the underlying message that Paul and Huckabee are out of the race. At one point Huckabee, irritated, commented, "I didn't come here to umpire a ballgame between these two, I came here to get a chance to swing at a few myself."

Is this only a two-person race? The delegate numbers don’t reflect that. McCain has 93, Romney 59, Huckabee 40, Paul 4. Here's a novel idea . . . let the voters decide.

However, Anderson Cooper gave us a strong message that CNN thinks there are only two candidates and it appears they plan on doing what it takes to make it happen. CNN and Cooper have an obligation to represent, fairly, all candidates. Furthermore, they have an obligation to the American people to let them choose for themselves from the entire menu.

So is the fix in? I wouldn’t go that far, but once again it shows that the news media is no longer a disinterested party simply reporting events. They come to the event with their own agenda and priorities. They still believe they know what’s best for the American people and want to influence us in that direction. I don’t believe the news media is impartial. They want a Democrat elected in November and will do whatever they can to make it happen. As one commenter, from Corey, Fla., stated on the msnbc.com website, “In my opinion, CNN should issue an apology to Paul and Huckabee.” I agree, and they should apologize to the American people as well.

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Comments

Gina Dalfonzo

Don't even get me started on Chris Wallace's antics during the New Hampshire debate. It was weeks ago and I'm still fuming.

Matt

If the media wants a democrat to win, wouldn't they prefer Huckabee to be the Republican nomination? He seems closest to the dems in terms of policy.

Or better yet, if they want a democrat to win then wouldn't they want Ron Paul to win the Republican nod? Talk about unelectable...

Brian

I'm not sure I would go so far as to say that every news organization in the country wants a Democrat elected and is conspiring to make that happen but I DO agree with you that news outlets are influencing and not merely reporting the nomination process.

It's happening to candidates in both parties and it's atrocious. Ron Paul's campaign is rolling (fiscally speaking) and he placed over Giuliani in multiple races (if I remember correctly) yet the media treated the two differently.

And Edwards made a remark similar to Huckabee's in a debate not too long ago. Calling it "frustrating" would be an understatement.

Mark D. Wilkerson

It would be a nice idea, but I won't hold my breath! Our media has been biased since the founding of the Republic; some of the early newspaper slurs against political candidates were scurrilous, even by today's standards. Perhaps the most extreme example occurred when two Hearst columnists called for the assassination of President McKinley!

This is one area where we can be grateful for television. With TV, at least people could watch and hear Governor Huckabee complain about not being given a fair shake.

Sy

I don't quite get the jump from "The media is shaping the way voters think" and "The media is eliminating Huckaby and Paul without the voters" to "The mdia wants a Democrat to win." Though the first two premises are correct, and a big problem in this country, but the conclusion doesn't seem to follow. Certainly not with Fox News anyway.

Dennis Babish

Thanks to everyone for their comments.
I'll try to respond to each one.
Matt - There was a poll done about a month or so ago where it compared each Republican candidate against the Democratic candidates and Huckabee did extremely well and in fact would beat the Democrats. Actually his policies aren't close to the Democrats but the media has portrayed them as such. So you have to ask yourself is if I am right about the media then why are they focusing on Romney and McClain? Maybe they believe the Democrats have a better chance of winning. Of course if I am wrong then never mind.
Brian - I agree with you that not all of the media wants a Democrat elected or that there is a conspiracy. Sometimes I do go over the top.
Mark - As bad as the campaigns are today they pale in comparison to elections in the 1800s. One difference then from now is that newspapers were created to specifically promote one candidate and demean the other. However they presented themselves as biased and not objective.
Sy - Since you agree that the media is trying to influence what do you think their reason is for doing that? My statement reflected more on how the media treats the different parties in general. They certainly come across as favoring the Democrats. Fox News is an exception and that's why I watch their news.

Brian

Dennis, Do you watch Fox News because you believe they are unbiased or because they are not biased toward Democrats (but potentially toward another party/objective)?

Dennis Babish

Brian,
I don't watch Fox News because I believe they are unbiased, I think they do have bias. I do however believe they are less biased and more willing to try to present a fairer and a more balanced representation of the news. By the way I do look at CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, and MSNBC to see how they handle a particular news item. I just think Fox News does a better job at being objective. In summary I look at all o fthe media with a leery eye.

Jason Ibrahim

Matt said,

"If the media wants a democrat to win, wouldn't they prefer Huckabee to be the Republican nomination? He seems closest to the dems in terms of policy."

I definitely don't think the Democrats would want to see Huckabee elected. Even if he does implement fiscal policies that look more Democratic (and I'm not saying he will or will not), he is also coming against the Democrats' two sacred cows: the right to force the American public to accept sexual dysfunction as normal, and the right to forgo the natural parental instinct, by terminating your own offspring's existence.

Brian

Jason Ibrahim, I assume you are referring to homosexuality when you say "sexual dysfunction." That is a factually incorrect statement. All major medical, psychological, and psychiatric organizations recognize that it is neither a disorder nor a dysfunction.

Please use accurate language when describing positions.

Jason Ibrahim

Hello Brian,
First off, let me just say that I don't think this is the right time and place for debating the merits of homosexuality. While that's not something I would be opposed to under different circumstances, my comments were aimed directly at Governor Huckabee's interaction with the Democratic party.

Secondly, I want to make it clear that I am not condemning someone caught in sexual sin. Having had (and sometimes still having) problems with sexual sin myself, I've come to understand that God's Spirit brings freedom. I am, however, saying that redemption without repentance is unattainable.

I agree with you that most modern medical, psychological and psychiatric associations now see homosexuality as a normal form of behavior. The problem that I have is those opinions are made in opposition to Scripture, and as such are way out of bounds. Having my theology dictated to me by secular psychologists makes about as much sense as asking my butcher for a haircut. I think professional associations that try to legitimate homosexuality fall, whether willingly or not, into the progression Chris Lileks lays out here: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/07/1107/112607.html ; this was mentioned in the Point a number of months ago, and if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it.

I'm sure you and I have heard all the Old and New Testament references to the "indecent act" (their words, not mine) of homosexuality, so I will spare repeating them to you. What I have not yet heard though, is a cogent and coherent explanation of how the Scriptures sanction homosexual practice. As I said before, this is neither the time nor the place, but I'd be willing to learn something about the subject.

Lastly, I'm not sure I understand your caution to "use accurate language when describing positions". As I read the above comment, it seems that you would have my opinion invalidated on the basis of its variance from your own. I chose my words very carefully, and I believe very strongly that they are accurate. I can understand that you hold a different opinion from me, and I can respect your right to hold it.

Major Medical, Psychological, and Psychiatric Organizations

And we are never driven by anything other than empirical data. We are impervious to social, cultural, and political considerations.

Seriously.

You can trust us.

Also, the DSMs are empirically determined gospel. Regardless of what our voting methodolgies might suggest.

Mark D. Wilkerson


Dennis- you are right that many of the newspapers in the 1800's were created to push a political party. They were successful, however, because most of the readers did not appreciate the extent that the stories were slanted and thus formed opinions based on the "news."

I don't believe that any of today’s cable and broadcast network "news" programs are designed to provide unbiased reporting; instead they are carefully designed to capture our viewing attention through entertainment.

We all migrate to those programs which support our point of view.

A straight news reporting station would likely fail in today's culture.

Sy

Dennis, I think the television news media, like all media, is mostly influenced by their desire to make money. The 24 hour news networks have the added problem of, well, 24 hours of news to fill. They have to produce entertaining news stories that are easy for the average American to digest. This means creating simple narratives about an extremely complex electoral process. The narratives help them to generate news stories without really thinking that hard, and then these stories are easy to understand for the viewer. If Huckaby and Paul are eliminated by the media, the media sets a one on one race that is much easier to understand for the viewer, and allows the media to set up a fierce fight to the finish between the remaining two. They can also then dismiss the complaints of Huckaby and the contraversial things Paul says in the debates as the ramblings of soar losers. In short, their manipulation of the thinking of the American public does not usually stem from a particular agenda, but from a desire to make money by being entertaining and simple-minded.
As for their covering the Democratic race more than the Republican race, I'm not sure if that's accurate, but if it is, it's hardly surprising. Which would you rather cover? The race between the first potential black and female president, or the same old white guys arguing over which one of them is the most like Ronald Reagan?

Brian

Sy, I think you hit the nail right on the head. I just read a Huffington Post article to the same effect this morning. In that case, the author was mourning that he would not be able to vote for his chosen candidate because, for all intents and purposes, the news media had whittled the field of candidates down to 2 before Super Tuesday even came to pass. Thankfully on the Republican side there's still a few more options.

For now.

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