>La Grande Observer | Union and Wallowa Counties' News Leader

Observer news NE Oregon Classifieds Web
web powered by Web Search Powered by Google

Follow LaGrandeObserver.com

La Grande Observer print edition

view all La Grande Observer print publications »

La Grande Observer Paper 07/23/14

The LaGrande Observer is now online in a Replica E-edition form and publishes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Current subscribers have full access to the E-edition.

View Paper

If you are not a current subscriber, subscribe today for immediate access.

Subscribe


Recent article comments

Powered by Disqus

Home arrow Opinion arrow MY VOICE arrow Be skeptical of campaign news

Be skeptical of campaign news

The 2008 presidential race has officially begun. Media bloviators were already drawing conclusions after the Iowa caucuses, conclusions these principled professionals would stick with until the next commercial break. New Hampshire saw John McCain's comeback and Hillary Clinton's brush with tears. The biggest surprise so far may be the winners in Iowa — an African American on the Democratic side, and for the Republicans a former governor/ordained minister whose campaign has one lone corporate friend: Wal-Mart. Welcome to the year of "change.''

... Sorry. Got carried away there. Caught up in the campaign play-by-play, which is, to paraphrase writer Ben Hecht, like telling time by looking at the second hand of a watch. And watching modern campaigns operate is like peering into a hot dog factory — the less you know, the better your appetite. But for the adventurous, this column — the first of an occasional series — will look at some of the campaign's innards, and will follow the candidates as the electoral mudpit slowly, painfully clears, leaving two contenders (and "minor party" candidates whose names you won't see or hear until election day) to face off in a process characterized by dignity, mutual respect for our pluralist traditions and humble acquiescence to the will of the electorate.

OK, maybe not. But there are a couple of basic principles that apply: First, money wins elections. The candidate who outspends the competitors wins about 95 percent of the time. Money buys media time (mostly TV), organization (to get out votes and raise money) and consultants. The 2004 presidential campaign price tag was over $1 billion — at least we got our money's worth. At least Halliburton and ExxonMobil did.

Second, know your geography. In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 500,000, but George Bush "took" the electoral college. Not all states are equal, though, and money is spent in populous "swing states" full of delegates. So instead of "broadcasting" to the masses, campaigns "narrowcast," using market research to peel off just enough segments of the electorate to gain a 50 percent plus one majority. With only seven delegates usually going to the Democratic candidate, Oregon doesn't get many campaign visits.

Commercial news media cover campaigns like horse races, obsessing with today's frontrunners and how much money is being raised. Why the field needs to be winnowed a year out, or why money should trump ideas and substance, do less well in ratings.

Media outlets score during campaign years by selling advertising time, and higher-than-normal ratings of news coverage increase overall ad revenue. Not surprisingly, sideshows sell advertising better than policy debates. And like a horse race, the more money bet on one candidate, the better the odds and the more pressure on the campaign to do whatever it takes to win.

Hence the hot dog factory. Consultants are paid well, not to ensure that democracy functions as the framers of the Constitution intended, but to win. They interview "focus groups" to identify what voters want to hear and which voters they can count on. They test certain words or phrases, which are fed to media as "sound bites" and inserted into brochures, commercials, interviews, debates, talk radio hosts' scripts and websites.

"Hope," "family," "future," "freedom" and (this year) "change" are good words for your candidate, while "decay," "bizarre," "socialist," "bureaucracy" and yes, "liberal," are bad words for your opponent (Hillary Clinton used the "L" word on Barack Obama recently).

Consultants produce "talking points," which are scripts candidates repeat as needed to stay "on message" and avoid sounding like former Vice President Dan Quayle ("If we do not succeed, then we run the risk of failure"). By July, heavy scripting reduces candidates' brains to an oatmeal-like state.

So unless a candidate is your neighbor, you don't know him/her — all you know is what the consultant thinks will sell, and this is often manufactured, right down to the policy, the "photo-op," the Texas drawl or the emotion and the practiced poses for the camera staged for the nightly news broadcasts. As Reagan's spokesman Larry Speakes actually said to a press gathering, "you don't tell us how to stage the news, and we won't tell you how to report it."

Last on this list is the smear campaign, ideally delivered by "third parties" untraceable to the candidate, based on "opposition research'' (where researchers dig up and air dirty laundry, or at least make it look soiled). Accusations, no matter how outrageous and inflammatory, force candidates to issue denials, putting them on the defensive.

And the outcome of all this money, calculation and subterfuge? Electile dysfunction. The victors know how to campaign, but not necessarily how to govern, a skill requiring consensus and compromise.

So be skeptical of campaign news. Remember that consultants are smarter than we are, and use the TV as it was intended — for entertainment, not information. Unless there's something good on youtube or the Daily Show.

 

 

Bill Grigsby is an associate professor of sociology at Eastern Oregon University. He researches, writes and teaches on the media, with a special focus on news, politics and the study of propaganda.

 
blog comments powered by Disqus
News
Local / Sports / Business / State / National / Obituaries / Public Notices
Opinion
Editorials / Letters / Guest Columns / Columnists
Features
Outdoors / Ag / Spiritual / Go Magazine / Portraits
Classifieds
View all classifieds / Jobs / Autos / Real Estate / Rentals / Place an Ad
The Observer
About / Contact / Commercial Printing / Subscriptions / Terms of Use / Site Map
Also Online
Photo Reprints / Slideshows / Weather and Valley Cam / /index.php?option=com_rss&feed=RSS2.0&no_html=1">RSS Feed ?> RSS Feed

Follow La Grande Observer headlines on Follow La Grande Observer headlines on Twitter

© Copyright 2001 - 2014 Western Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. By Using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

LaGrandeObserver.com works best with the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari

acheter du cialis sur internet viagra generic from india cialis 100 mg que efecto tadalafil online bestellen viagra generika erfahrungen pharmacie canadienne cialis viagra rezeptfrei wien precio viagra españa viagra köpes cialis prezzo cialis 5 mg quanto costa vendita on line del viagra e similari commande viagra en france levitra kaufen ohne rezept kamagra verkauf levitra 10mg rezeptfrei viagra en libre vente en france comprar viagra natural barcelona viagra france pharmacie cialis 12 preis achat viagra en belgique kamagra vente viagra tabletten viagra priser compra viagra 24 horas procurer du cialis acheter viagra a paris comprar viagra de andorra viagra bij apotheek acheter viagra sécurisé