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Daily Digest: Does Campaign Coverage Suck?

BY Joshua Levy | Monday, January 21 2008

The Web on the Candidates

  • NYU journalism professor and founder of Jay Rosen has a fantastic excoriation of horse-race journalism titled “Why campaign coverage sucks,” in which he argues that mainstream election coverage is “a beast without a brain,” and that most of the time, “it doesn’t know what it’s doing.” (Jay helped launch Off The Bus as a counterweight to the breathless prognostications, vicarious strategizing, and inside baseball served up by the big kids.) Jay gives political journalists some tough love and, in a twist on Jon Stewart’s “you’re hurting America” bit, suggests that maybe we should let the voters do their work instead of insisting on predicting the outcomes of races. The long piece can’t easily be summarized, so go read the whole thing.

  • Meanwhile, sometime techPresident contributor and super-organizer Zack Exley shows us what deeper coverage looks like, filing a 2500+ word report on Off The Bus about a new bumper crop of young Democratic organizers. “The big field story of 2008 is not about the horse race,” Zack writes. “The early states of Iowa and New Hampshire — joined by Nevada and South Carolina this year — have functioned as training grounds for a new generation of field organizers and incubators of new field techniques and technologies.” Some of the report may be lost on those not familiar with the inner workings of field organizing, but anyone will find that campaigns are about much more than a few tired tears or problematic robo calls.

  • Speaking of breathless journalistic coverage, the New York Times’ Noam Cohen writes that Twitter is becoming the newest tool in journalists’ arsenal. He describes the Twittering of Slate's John Dickerson, who has jumped full hog onto the Twitter bandwagon ("Wishing there were someone to twitter about me reading NYT about my twittering," Dickerson recently Twittered.) But is Twitter just making it easier for journalists to stay skin-deep? “Some might consider the idea of a barrage of text-messaged snippets about the presidential election the final dreadful realization of the news media’s obsession with ‘sound bites,’” writes Cohen. Maybe, but I’m not the only one who’s having fun reading Ana Marie Cox’s tweets (“If John McCain doesn’t win, the 800 words I’ve already written will demand a re-count.”)

  • DailyKos diarist thereisnospoon has a controversial post on allegations of voter suppression by the Clinton campaign in the Nevada caucuses. The post says that the Clinton campaign engaged in election irregularities in Clark County, ranging from closing the doors early to claiming that a caucus was for Clinton supporters only, to shuttling Clinton supporters to vote in more than one caucus. David Plouffe of the Obama campaign has put out a statement citing more than 200 instances of irregularities. There are more than 1500 comments on thereisnospoon's post alone, and the Washington Post has covered it. Clearly there was a chaotic scene at lots of caucus sites, as this YouTube video and post from Todd Beeton at MyDD illustrates.

  • American expats from the Democratic party can now vote online in the presidential primary, reports the AP’s Jessica Bernstein-Wax. Democrats Abroad, an official branch of the Democratic Party, is holding a global presidential primary from Feb. 5-12, and will award 22 delegates in this summer’s Democratic National Convention. Expat Republicans can’t vote online, but their own Republicans Abroad is “organizing to get more overseas Republicans registered back home before the primaries,” says Bernstein-Wax. Democrats Abroad uses software called Everyone Counts to do the voting, which claims to have a "higher standard of security than is available in any other kind of system, including paper."

  • Last week Brian Lehrer, the beloved host of an eponymous talk show on New York NPR affiliate WNYC, talked with techPresident’s Micah Sifry on his weekly TV show about political video and the 2008 race, and also had a fascinating discussion of political campaign ads of the past with Carl Goodman and David Schwartz, who run "The Living Room Candidate" project at the Museum of the Moving Image. He’ll be talking with folks from our fine organization over the next three weeks. If you’re in New York, tune in to CUNY TV on channel 75 on Wednesdays at 7:30pm for the live broadcast (rerun times are here). The rest of you can catch Real video on the show’s site.

The Candidates on the Web

  • Duncan Hunter, he of the low Facebook and MySpace numbers and surprisingly high number of YouTube views, has bowed out of the race. “I ran the campaign exactly the way I wanted to, and at this point not being able to gain traction in conservative states of Nevada and South Carolina, it’s time to allow our volunteers and supporters to focus on the campaigns that remain viable,” he says in the statement. He was last seen with one campaign aide forlornly waving at drivers in Manchester, NH.

  • Fred Thompson, however, is still in, though you wouldn’t know it from the obits popping up. RedState’s pronouncing his campaign dead, and Ben Domenech imagines what a goodbye speech might look like: “Hey there folks. I’m Fred Thompson. I’d say I’m glad to be here, but I’m not, so f*** that.”

In Case You Missed It…

Our friends at Eventful have released some good news about the candidates’ use of their site to organize local events in the runup to the Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary.

Yahoo! Buzz data released last week about Democratic voters in Nevada and South Carolina showed a dead heat between Clinton and Obama, which was born out in the results.