John Edwards and the mainstream media
The unserious battle to be taken seriously
By Mark Kilmer Posted in 2008 — Comments (4) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
In jeans and a blue button down, implying that their were two New Orleanses, John Edward looked the media dream when he announced in the Big Easy yesterday, though John Kerry's hometown Globe thought their boy merited at least a subhead in this big Edwards deal. It should have been parenthetical, but the Boston daily proclaimed that somehow Edwards' announcement had put "added pressure on his former running mate, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, to decide whether he will make a second bid for president." I suppose they still have to pay attention to that guy in Beantown.
Will Edwards win the collective heart of the mainstream media (MSM) this campaign? The first signs are uncertain.
On Edwards's big announcement, Newsbusters.org's Mark Finkelstein, the man who keeps an eye on the network morning shows, caught ABC's George Stephanopoulos giving John Edwards a rough time on ABC's Good Morning America yesterday:
Steph was on the offense from the get-go: "Back in 2004, you criticized President Bush for exploiting the tragedy of 9/11 by having his convention in New York City. Aren't you exploiting Katrina by announcing your candidacy in New Orleans?"
Edwards didn't respond directly to the exploitation allegation, asserting only that he was seeking to draw attention to New Orleans's plight. And not to himself? At the risk of reading too much into every jot and tittle, I'd say that Steph's formulation "aren't you exploiting?" is considerably more accusatory than would have been "are you exploiting?"
Follow the link for more.
Mike Rule at Newsbusters.org has NBC's Matt Lauer joining Steph in hassling North Carolina's John Boy, with Lauer accusing Edwards of hypocrisy: talking the language of the little guy while rolling in his own cash. Steph's main problem was the exploitation of the train they call the city of New Orleans.
Rule felt that CBS' Harry Smith lobbed softballs at Edwards.
Then again, Steph, Lauer, and Smith are not solid MSM-types: Lauer's an entertainment reporter; Steph's a political operative; and Harry Smith is… well, he's there, I suppose.
The Washington Post's Dan Balz, as MSM as one can be, sees Edwards as something of the exciting maverick, deftly using the MSM to his potential advantage:
Candidates have used non-traditional venues to launch their campaigns in the past. The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson did an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" to declare his candidacy in 1984. Texas billionaire Ross Perot used CNN's "Larry King Live" to signal his desire to be president in 1992.
Edwards turned that model upside down, in essence choosing to give exclusives to everyone, confident that the more individual outlets he spoke to, the more time each would devote to his campaign. Piece by piece, he was trying to build a bigger audience.
Nor did Edwards hope to spread his message by putting himself at the mercy of others. Like all candidates now, Edwards has his own Web site and his own videographer. As he did some volunteer work in the 9th Ward on Wednesday afternoon, he taped a message that his campaign posted later that night on his campaign Web site and on YouTube.com. What he said in that video was nearly identical to what he said to a bank of network and local television station cameras on Thursday.
Smart candidates know the old command-and-control structures of politics don't work anymore. Instead, campaigns are all about building communities and speaking directly to supporters, whether through email or podcasts or what the Edwards team calls "webisodes." As part of his announcement day, he spent a few minutes answering questions on the Daily Kos site, an influential liberal blog.
Straight-to-the-Nutroots, Balz sees Edwards as the wave of the future in projecting himself to the masses through the media using the new-fangled tools of "dynamic messaging and niche marketing." Forgive me, Dan, but was that fawning or swooning?
Edwards has the organization to win his party's nomination, and he is raising the necessary funds. (He just just sold his Georgetown house for $5.2-million, anyway.) Key for Edwards will be media Hillary-fatigue and how long it will take for the Obama novelty to wear off. Key to the country beyond that, populism of the Edwards variety is shallow, consisting of tired slogans, so Republicans would need a candidate who can kick over the rock.