WZZM 13 “Supplemental” Online Coverage becomes Substitute in Congressional Race

WZZM 13–who in the past has touted its website as an important component of its election coverage–is relying primarily on its website to cover the 3rd Congressional District race. Even with the potential of the Internet, the station’s online coverage falls short.

In the past, the local broadcast media has touted their websites as a means for providing supplemental election coverage beyond what they provide via the public airwaves. However, in reviewing the website of WZZM 13, that supplemental coverage is hardly enough to make up for the gaps in on-air coverage.

Take for example, the 3rd Congressional District race. Representative Vern Ehlers, a Republican, is up for reelection. He is facing two candidates–Democrat Henry Sanchez and Libertarian Erwin Haas. The race has received relatively little attention in the media. On their website, WZZM 13’s resources include a Voters Guide produced by Gannett that gives the candidates’ response to questions about their priority in Washington, new energy policies, the national deficit, the Iraq War, universal health care, Roe vs. Wade, undocumented immigration, and constitutional protections against race, gender, and ethnic discrimination. The Voters Guide does not examine any of the candidates’ proposals or statements, leaving it up to the reader to determine their veracity. Similarly, there is no information about how the incumbent, Vern Ehlers, has voted while in Congress, nor are there links provided to find out that information.

The website also offers videos featuring the three candidates. However, the videos (reposted below) are essentially candidate commercials as they do not feature reporters asking the candidates questions. Once again, WZZM 13 makes no attempt to verify the claims of the candidates

Vern Ehlers:

Henry Sanchez:

Erwin Hass:

WZZM 13 also provides links to the candidates’ websites.

While there is certainly potential in using online coverage as a supplemental to on-air election coverage, WZZM 13’s coverage provides only a minimal amount of coverage. Moreover, with little coverage of the race on-air, it ends up being a substitute for broader coverage of the race by the station, rather than a supplement.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org