Covering election campaigns can be monotonous for reporters on both the local and national levels. Candidates often give similar stump speeches at each campaign stop, and reporters must scramble to find different angles and subjects to write about.
It is especially hard in this day and age of instant digital reporting and longer campaign seasons.
On top of that, many candidates no longer have regular impromptu Q-and-A sessions with journalists covering the campaign. This used to be a time reporters could pursue fresh angles or get a candidate’s response to other news of the day.
As a result, a lot of coverage tends to focus on gaffes or missteps by candidates, especially when it comes to the national scene.
This is part of the reason so many journalists are complaining about this presidential election.
In an article for the online magazine POLITICO, veteran journalists talked about how “joyless” covering the presidential campaign has been this year.
“This is worse than normal, a lot less fun, and it feels impossible for us to change the conversation,” said Walter Shapiro, who has covered nine presidential campaigns.
Some journalists said the candidates don’t seem to be having fun, either.
“People are feeling grateful that it’s almost over,” said Maggie Haberman, who covered the 2008 election for the New York Post.
“There has been this ongoing lack of enthusiasm. Neither side seems to be enjoying this race — not the Democrats or the Republicans, and not the reporters.”
I’m not sure where it says in a journalists’ job description that you are supposed to have fun covering elections. It is a job. Your responsibility is to keep the public informed, no matter how difficult and joyless it seems.
After the POLITICO article ran last week, a number of peers chimed in on blogs and commentaries, calling for campaign journalists to “quit their whining.”
Locally, we haven’t found the candidates difficult or unreasonable during this election, just their supporters.
It is true the presidential campaign has been a polarizing one on many levels. A glance at the online comments is evidence enough. That polarization has tended to fog people’s perception of fairness, especially when it comes to media coverage.
The last two weeks, we have featured both wire and local coverage of the Republican and Democratic national conventions in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.
But some readers complained that we “totally ignored” one party while “covering the heck” out of the other. Which party they were referring to was interchangeable.
For instance, on Wednesday, we ran a banner refer across the top of Page 1 teasing coverage of Michelle Obama’s speech that appeared on Page 2A.
We received a call from a woman who complained about the first lady’s photo appearing on Page 1 when “we never had any coverage of the Republican convention on Page 1.” The woman insisted she was a subscriber and regular reader of the Standard-Examiner.
After the Democratic Convention was over, we received the following letter:
“OK, so we bought the lack of coverage of the Democratic Caucus being blamed on the AP not submitting the report. Who are you now blaming for the lack of coverage for the Democratic National Convention as opposed to the massive coverage of the Republican National Convention?”
For the record, we ran five Page 1 stories in the print edition on the Republican convention over three days, including two about local delegates.
We ran four Page 1 stories about the Democratic convention over three days, also with two about local delegates.
We would have run five Page 1 Democratic stories, except we bumped coverage of the first lady’s speech to 2A because we had some dramatic photos from a house fire in Mountain Green.
In other words, the amount of convention print coverage was the same for both parties.
Such complaints come with the territory, and I don’t want to appear that I’m also whining. Let’s just say I am fact-checking the complaints.
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or email@example.com.