October 28, 2008

Mainstream media fails the electorate--again

Orson Scott Card handed out some harsh medicine to local dailies in this opinion piece:

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?

In which he accuses daily newspapers of bias in failing to cover Barack Obama's part in the run-up to the subprime mortgage crisis. An excerpt:

If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats -- including Barack Obama -- and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans -- then you are not journalists by any standard.

Card's point is cogent, and eloquently put.

But many in the media are equally guilty of a less obvious bias: As long as mainstream media outlets continue to pretend that the Big Two are the only parties in this country, they cripple the democratic process.

An informed electorate is one of the keys to a successful democracy. Traditionally, Americans have looked to the media to consolidate the vast amount of information available. But when journalists employ bias in the process, or when they ignore third-party candidates simply because those parties are statistically unlikely to win, they prove themselves unworthy of the task.

The City Club of Cleveland hosted a debate today between Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, independent candidate Ralph Nader, and Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin. C-Span recorded the debate for addition to its archives.

I'm glad someone is paying attention. Because when I checked the "Election" tab at Google news, the only mention I found of any of these gentlemen was in this AP story, which is about a poll, not the debate.

So far, the blogosphere is picking up the slack, if you can pick through the slag. While I was picking, I came across this article, which shows that 55 percent of likely voters felt Barr should be included in the presidential debates. But the commission that organizes the debates will only admit a candidate who has "a mathematical chance of winning a majority of Electoral College votes, and . . . at least 15% support in national public opinion polls before the debates."

Get this, though--younger respondents were more likely to say that third-party candidates should be included. Because of this, the parties--and the media--need to change their approaches.

The more the love-hate triangle between the Democrats and the media and the Republicans continues to follow the same worn-out plot, the more disaffected voters are going to look for someone telling a new story in a new way.

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