Crowley Political Report, as part of our ongoing examination of media coverage of the Florida presidential campaign for Columbia Journalism Review, took a look at news reporting about Mitt Romney's visit to Florida this week.
Romney spoke for a bit more than 15 minutes. Toss in another 15 minutes of shaking hands, and Romney spent a mere 30 minutes on public view—none of it particularly newsworthy.
But the armada of media on hand would have led viewers and readers to believe that this was not just a major Republican campaign event, but the political event of the campaign. Romney’s relatively brief visit to Florida, which also included two closed-press fundraisers on the island of Palm Beach, was greeted with print, web, and broadcast stories the day before his arrival and breathless coverage during his visit.
Did Romney deserve this extensive coverage? As the leading presidential candidate, someone widely presumed to be the likely nominee, Romney has earned a higher level of scrutiny.
But were readers and viewers well served? Much of the coverage was superficial or even cheerleading.
That leads to a final question—would other candidates have received the same attention? Maybe. While news organizations have often seemed befuddled over the last year in trying to figure out who the leading candidates were at any given moment, today there is more clarity. Votes have been cast. Reporters know who has the needed money and other resources to campaign successfully in a large state such as Florida. So news organizations can make better judgments.
But if Florida news organizations have made the decision that Romney deserves extraordinary coverage, then they need to make sure that coverage includes an equally in-depth look at Romney’s views about issues important to Floridians—housing and foreclosures, Florida’s deep unemployment, severe cuts to the space program, relationships with Cuba and Haiti, and oil drilling off Florida’s coast are just a few examples.
Assignment editors and reporters should remember that it is not up to the candidate to make the news. You can find it yourself.
Read the entire report which high praise for work done by the Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald.
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