Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has released a new “media advisory” outlining how much of the coverage of the 2008 presidential race has fallen into a focus on media-created narratives rather than real issues.
“Corporate media coverage of election 2008 has fallen into the well-documented pattern (Extra!, 5-6/08) of reporting on the election as if it were a horse-race rather than a democratic process in which real issues were at stake. Not only do journalists organize the election story around the question–not terribly helpful to voters–of who’s up and who’s down, they largely base their evaluation of the race on shallow image-based narratives that the media construct themselves: Barack Obama is an “elitist” who might not “get the way we live” (Extra!, 7=8/08), while John McCain is a straight-talking “maverick” (Extra!, 5=6/08). Though these tropes are treated by establishment news outlets as self-evident, they usually fail to stand up to any kind of scrutiny.”
FAIR identifies what its finds to be the most common narratives, many of which we have seen in local reporting on the election. FAIR cites constant reporting on McCain’s “maverick” status, Obama’s elitism, the “smearing” of Sarah Palin, McCain’s reputation as an expert on national security, the importance of “shifting to the right” in an election, Obama’s election as a triumph of “acceptable” black politicians, taking focus off the Iraq War, providing a false sense of “balance,” focusing on polls, examining Obama’s money, and examining “Obama’s associates” such as Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright.
In all of these cases, FAIR shows that the media tends to ignore nuance in these cases and uses them to making broad generalizations, while also treating them as if they are the most important issues in the campaign.