Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Media Fail

Stories about the special election in West Virginia last night to elect a Governor sparked a question for me. Here's Steve Benen talking about the race.

President Obama is deeply unpopular in this conservative state, and GOP ads were based almost entirely on tying the Democratic candidate to the White House...

The efforts of the Republican Governors Association were of particular interest. With gubernatorial races in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana proving to be uncompetitive, the RGA devoted considerable resources to the West Virginia race, spending in upwards of $5 million in anti-Obama attack ads. The party not only hoped to win an off-year race and lend fuel to a national media narrative, but also saw this as a test run for a plan that could be utilized here and elsewhere in 2012.

But it didn’t work out. Maloney came on strong in the race’s closing weeks, but Tomblin won anyway, and the areas of the state where the RGA ads ran the most seemed largely unaffected by the anti-Obama push. Indeed, Republicans ended up outspending Democrats in this race by a wide margin — roughly a two-to-one margin — but to no avail.

I've often wondered if the saturation of so much media combined with the choices people have to choose what to listen to/watch/read has perhaps led to a dissipation of the power of media to craft one narrative to affect voters. Are there perhaps some small signs that people are tuning out and maybe even thinking for themselves?

One of the most powerful examples of that came with the major TV networks' ability to report instant polling after debates. Over and over again in 2008 the pundits would come on afterwards and share their opinions (McCain won!) only to find that they were at odds with the public's response (we actually like Obama). Since those instant polls had measured voter's response prior to listening to the pundits, we got a much more pure picture of what voters themselves actually thought.

In West Virginia we see that voters were saturated with ads that ultimately didn't seem to have an affect. Was anyone watching? Or did they just not believe what they heard?

Over at PlanetPOV, atdnext tackles this question in a little different form with an post titled Obama is doomed next year...or is he?

It’s easy to just look at the angst and frustration now commonplace throughout America and make snapshot judgments on President Obama’s reelection campaign. It takes much harder work to dig deeper and tackle the more serious questions of why Congress has taken no action this year to curb unemployment and address the deepening poverty crisis, and why the Republican Party has fallen off the deep end in celebrating extremely regressive and ineffective economic policy. And of course, that kind of work by reporters may not be appreciated by their corporate overlords. So instead, we continued to be subjected to more mindless “Obama FAIL!!!” drivel as media pundits keep searching for the perfect Republican candidate of their dreams and more “ordinary people” just get more frustrated.

In other words, the media is missing the story. What atdnext is describing is a disconnect between what people are thinking and feeling and what they hear talked about in the media. I suspect its the same feeling the folks in West Virginia had when they saw those ads (if they watched at all).

I'm not suggesting we're there yet it terms of people thinking for themselves rather than being manipulated by the money media can buy. But perhaps we're heading more in that direction...at least until the media takes the time to actually listen rather than proscribe.

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