Running for President

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December 11, 2003


Charles J. Kershner

The most notable change over the last decade or so is the use of TV by all politicians to spread their word, from announcing a candidacy to a string of political ads. The medium for discourse has changed from print to broadcast and now to web, and the multiplicity of media has done little to help the public focus its attention on any particular issue or person with any surety that they are getting all the "information" they need to make sound decisions. What they are getting is a lot of "noise", which, I believe, is what politicians really want to disseminate. Noise is hard to define let alone interpret and the more noise that can be generated over the greatest number of medium leaves the receiver (in this case, the public) with no good alternative than to parse the noise and pick out it what they "think" they heard and saw (and in lesser instances, read). While not of presidential stature, where else could Californians -- and the entire known universe -- have learned that Arnold Schwarzenneger was running for governor other than by watching/listening to his announcement on Jay Leno's late night chat show? No embargoed news release sent to the AP, networks, and major metros, followed by a news conference. The president uses the same technique: speak to the public primarily through tv; send out admin hacks to make the round of the Sunday talk shows mistakenly identified as news and information programs; speaking primarily to heavily vetted, friendly audiences guaranteed to shout and clap on cue, etc. I still prefer to read about the president and the campaign, however tedious reading may be these days, in the newspaper. There I find all the bits n pieces that the sound bite or film clip can't or won't include. There is NO easy answer to this political conundrum. We can, of course, trust the public to exercise common sense in parsing the information or sound bites or whatever and making wise decisions at the ballot box. However, in the end, people get who they vote for -- good, bad or ugly. --Chuck Kershner, executive editor, Clinton (NY)Courier

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