Tomorrow’s midterm elections are surely among the most closely watched and hotly contested in many years. The media coverage has thoroughly discussed the latest polls and approval ratings, as well as the barrage of negative advertising. But when a “botched” joke receives wall-to-wall coverage, it is a good time to ask whether political reporting is actually delivering citizens the information they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box. To hear some major media figures tell it, performing some of the basic functions of political journalism are not that important.
Appearing on CNN‘s Reliable Sources (11/5/06), CBS reporter Jim Axelrod explained that reporting valuable information about candidates is not the media’s top priority—and voters can get all that stuff someplace else anyway:
Fox News Channel anchor and managing editor Brit Hume explained (Broadcasting & Cable, 11/6/06) why journalists shouldn’t evaluate political advertising for accuracy:
ABC political director Mark Halperin, on the other hand, seems to think that fact-checking the candidates and tracking stealth campaign techniques is simply too difficult (Slate, 10/30/06):
Judging media coverage of elections is often reduced to asking whether the press was fair to this candidate or that. The better question, though, is whether the press was fair to the American voters.