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October 20, 2000 Community College Journalist

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2001
As is true in most election years, this year's presidential election has given us all a wonderful opportunity to talk to our students about the influence of the media in the electoral process. Little did we know, though, just how much fodder we'd be able to glean from the events. Yes, a wonderful case study is opening up before our eyes and certainly media behavior will change based on what we have seen happening this year, but it also seems important for us to step back a little and analyze how complacent we've become in allowing the media to feed us information. We, as individuals and as teachers, should be screaming about the way in which the broadcast media has done its job this year.

Early in the campaign, the mainstream media had practically proclaimed George W. our new president even before the republican convention. Then, after the democratic convention they proclaimed that A1 Gore was winning with women voters who could swing the election his way. And what earth shattering issue had swung women's support to Gore? Apparently, that infamous kiss on the stage of the democratic convention was enough for some.

What does all this posturing on what "we're" thinking do to an electorate who relies solely on broadcast media to form its opinions? In a day and age when ABC proudly proclaims that "most Americans get their news from ABC news than any other source," we should be worried. As a former broadcast journalist who believes in the power of news and the professionalism of its practitioners, it's been hard for me to come to the conclusion that the broadcast media is doing us a great disservice.

Election night was a fiasco. As Tom Brokaw aptly noted broadcasters not only had egg on their faces, but omlette all over their suits. The giving and taking of Florida from one camp to another wasn't just an example of news teams' methodological flaws; it was an example of how the scoop mentality and the entertainment base of television news has infested the reporting of the news. Never before has this been as evident. At the very least, the power of the broadcast news media altered voting behaviors in western districts more so than any other election. To what extent and at what cost may never be known.

It's an expensive price to pay but perhaps now all the scholars who write about the negative impact of the exit polls will be heard. Perhaps now projecting winners will not be a standard component of "reporting" election results. Perhaps now our students will begin to see that we're not just preaching about the power of the press, but we are all living with the results of it.

Carroll Ferguson Nardone
President, CCJA

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