With the presidential elections tomorrow, it is more important than ever to understand the major issues at hand and where each candidate stands. Media outlets are usually pretty good at covering the debates and speeches that the candidates make, but they don’t really focus on the main issues.
For example, instead of talking about the points made in the first presidential election, many news outlets focus on Romney’s quote that he was going to get rid of Big Bird. Is Big Bird really a major point in this election? No. So why focus on it? The media tends to trivialize elections rather than focus on the main issues.
So, why does the media run fluff stories on the candidates’ families instead of focusing on the actual issues? First of all, media outlets run like a business. In order to make money they have to get your attention or you won’t tune in. So they run fluff pieces or blow things out of proportion to grab your attention.
Running soft stories isn’t a bad thing. These kinds of stories can show you what kind of person the candidate can be. Is he a nice person who cares? Is he someone who can take charge in the face of a disaster? However, blowing up odd phrases, like firing Big Bird or having “binders full of women,” really doesn’t help the election. It just creates unnecessary hype.
At the least, they are creating interest in the election. If the media ran nothing but statistics and numbers concerning the economy, how much would the average Joe pay attention? Technically, you should be paying attention to this stuff. It’s going to affect your life for the next four years, if not the rest of your life. Whoever you vote for is leading an entire nation and is the face of America to the rest of the world.
On the other hand, it is so boring. I’m not one for numbers so I usually tune it out even though I should listen. Stories criticizing a candidate for a stupid mistake are at least interesting and entertaining when a candidate really messes up.
While it’s funny and more entertaining, these stories aren’t the most important aspects of an election. However, people take these useless points into account when entering the voting booth. This year, people will probably remember that “Sesame Street” was their favorite childhood TV show and base their choices on that.
While part of the fault for taking interest in insignificant stories lies with the general public, the rest of the blame rests with the media. Yes, the media can focus on those inconsequential things but they also need to focus on the bigger topics and informing the general public. After all, journalism is supposed to be the watchdog of the government and power.
Think back to the early 1900s, when “muckraking” journalism was popular. This was the period of investigative journalism that showed the people real issues hiding underneath the surface. Journalists went undercover and exposed big business deals and politicians had a reason to fear journalists. They brought issues to national attention that were affecting local people and taught the public how legislation and deals within the government affected the common man.
During this time, there were a lot of outlandish accusations too. Sometimes journalists would publish fake material in order to sell papers. Of course, journalism is held to a higher standard today.
I’m not saying journalists should make up stuff about candidates or dig deep enough in the past to find a juicy secret. Why not try to make the news relatable to readers and listeners? Why not make the numbers make sense? The media should be more like the muckrakers, getting to the heart of issues, while at the same time presenting it so it makes sense to the modern audience.
For example, when talking about the economy, talk about the different plans and how they could affect different individuals. How will increasing interest rates on government loans affect students? What about in the future when all this revenue is raised? Where will it go?
These are important questions that need to be taken into consideration when voting. However, the average person can’t really find these answers for themselves, either due to lack of time or lack of knowing someone who can explain it.
This is why we have journalists; they are supposed to find these answers for us. When they do find the answers, people will be more interested in elections and be more informed about the major issues instead of the hype surrounding the election.
Jeana Lawrence is a sophomore in journalism and mass communications and English. Please send comments to [email protected]