Politics or Tabloid Journalism?
September 16, 2008 2:03 PM
Politics has always been personal. That’s an undisputable fact. Public figures like politicians, athletes and actors are gaining more star power than ever in history, courtesy of socially driven technology, a very hands-on, around-the-clock media and a public with an unquenchable thirst for the intimate life details behind the headlines. What has resulted is possibly the most public and thoroughly dissected presidential election in our country’s history.
Cable news viewers have come to expect that when news breaks, they will get the essentials that they “need to know.” What often comes with that is a sordid mess of personal information that even the most experienced pundits have trouble selling as a legitimate news story.
As a news viewer and voter, at what point does “politics as usual” become tabloid journalism? When do the Sarah Palin headlines start sounding a lot like Paris Hilton ones?
Look at the recent breaking news headlines about the GOP’s vice presidential candidate. Shortly after Gov. Palin’s candidacy was announced, the media gleefully came forth with another surprising announcement: Palin’s 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. Reaction from running mate John McCain, the man who had thrust her into the spotlight in the first place, is that he knew about it all along and quickly pronounced this a “private family matter.” On the Democrats’ side, Sen. Barack Obama agreed: Hands off, folks, family matters are off-limits.
Behind the news desks, however, the circus had already come to town and was in full swing. Details about Bristol’s pregnancy quickly dwarfed details about more legitimate political stories concerning the candidate for VP. Don’t believe me? Google “Sarah Palin” and see which stories come up first.
Do the political implications of this personal story give it credibility? The Republican platform is, after all, traditionally known for things like family values. Gov. Palin’s own political stance is that “abstinence only” education programs should be the only type of sex education taught in the public schools. Do these factors make a scandal in Gov. Palin’s personal life fair game for pundits?
Whether the top story is personal, political or a combination of both, it’s our job as viewers and voters to apply a filter to the barrage of details with which we’re constantly being bombarded (especially as we get closer to Election Day). The media covers each detail as if it’s the most important story.
Which are the most important issues to you when deciding who to vote for? The personal ones, the political ones or a mix of the two?
See you in court!