Friday, October 31, 2008

Kudos to the Mayor of Pittsburgh

He's a first-time dad. Congrats to the Ravenstahls!

Moretti agrees with the FCC chair?

What! Is he going soft? Losing his mind?

Hey, come on...give me a break. In this case, I believe Kevin Martin is correct. And if you're a cable consumer, so should you.

If this is true...

...then 'tit for tat' is a bad way to do business.

Don't call the Election until all the polls are closed?

Radical? Insane? Never happen? Who would dare tell television executives what to do?

Because of the fractured political world in which we live, I believe there is a hidden agenda here -- a depressed voter turnout, as suggested by the Congressman making this "don't call" claim would hurt which party?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Economic yuck

Not very professional sounding...but what it looks like is even worse.

The future of newspapers?

Now, no newspaper editor has to fear being first...and being the lightning rod for the risks associated with taking a newspaper from hard copy to almost exclusively online. The editors of the Christian Science Monitor have taken the plunge.

Throwing Sarah under the bus?

Check out what some members of the McCain campaign are saying about the vice presidential nominee.

The election on one college campus

I'm guessing, and I think it's a safe bet, that a majority of the students on my college campus are going to vote for Barack Obama (if they choose to vote on Election Day).

It's also been my sense that these students have been more vocal (either through their comments or their wearing of buttons and t-shirts) in indicating their preference. These students seem so very confident in not only their support for Mr. Obama but also in their belief that he is going to win.

But in the back of my mind I remember one of the political pearls of all-time: the silent majority. No, I'm not doubting that the majority of students here favor Mr. Obama, but I sense (and that's all it is) that the McCain supporters are laying low, saying little and simply planning to show up to the polling station to which they are assigned.

I occasionally catch a wry smile on a student as he or she listens to someone tout Obama and I think 'that's a McCain supporter.' So why is it that I'm sure there are many more of them here? And if they are...on a college campus in a traditionally reliable Democratic city...then how many others are there in other places?

When you ask that question you understand why Barack Obama is not letting up on the accelerator heading into next week. The stakes are far too high to chill out now.

The Obama infomercial...

...was more than just a "vote for me" message, according to Cathleen Decker of the Los Angeles Times:

'Barack Obama's 30-minute campaign commercial Wednesday night was not merely a tactical decision to carpet-bomb millions of Americans in pursuit of a few thousand undecided voters who can dictate the outcome of the presidential campaign. Aired on seven network and cable stations, the ad served as a national get-out-the-vote organizing tool for Obama operatives. It offered even the swiftest channel-flipper the chance to see Obama looking presidential, helping to condition voters to that possibility. And once again it proved to John McCain, and everyone else, how Obama's deep pool of campaign cash has allowed him to rewrite the rules of the campaign. ... According to an accounting by the Nielsen television research company, the Illinois senator was running more than twice as many ads across the country as McCain, even after the Republican increased his television buys.'

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Could the polls be wrong?

It's a question that the mainstream media (and academics, for that matter!) are asking, as the final days of the presidential campaign unfold.

While the polls consistently indicate that Barack Obama is ahead, they also vary considerably in terms of just how big a lead he has. And that lack of clarity offers optimism for the McCain campaign, pause for the Obama campaign, and intrigue for the pollsters.

Stay tuned...the election could be closer than we think...or it could be a blowout. Who goes to the polls (and in which states) will give us that answer.

Just wondering

Seen any baseball lately?

It's stories such as this that give that media bias argument credibility

Give me a good reason (not some hyperbole-filled argument) why the Los Angeles Times would not release the videotape that is described in this story?

Fairly or unfairly, the "media bias" argument is advanced because of the (incorrect) decision made by the newspaper.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That sums it up well

Check out this gem from the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz:

'If the mainstream media are wrong about Obama and the voters pull a Truman, that is going to be the end of whatever shred of credibility they have left,' says Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean of Boston University's College of Communication.'

The danger of going too far to the left... that the majority of the country doesn't lean that way.

And these numbers should give pause to anyone who is fired up about taking a big government approach to the nation's problems.

Suspense? Suspense?

"Coverage of Election Now Lacks Suspense"

That's the headline in a New York Times story this morning.

Funny, I never knew that election coverage was supposed to have suspense. I thought coverage was supposed to be based on substance and analysis. The drama, in my obviously naive mind, would take care of itself.

Man, have I been a fool all these years. But I know better now, and I won't make that mistake any more. I'll be sure to tell my students starting today to make sure they highlight the "suspense" of a campaign and not worry about the issues.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ohio and the economy

On the campaign trail today, the economic climate that the the U.S. is dealing with was front and center in one battleground state.

Let's face it, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida -- because of their traditional swing-state status and large Electoral College numbers -- will be at the heart of the final few days of the presidential race.

A 40% cut in staff

That's what one New York-area newspaper is dealing with, as it accepts the buyouts of almost 4 in 10 employees.

The reasons are not new -- declining revenues, dropping circulation figures, etc. -- but the percentage associated with this story seems terribly high.

Changing with the times

A whole host of interesting tidbits in this story -- political junkies, journalists, journalism educators and others likely will find something in here that interests them.
Check out this report from an ABC reporter and picked up by

It's a pitch aimed directly at swing voters, who are deeply skeptical of single-party rule, reports ABC's Jake Tapper.

'Independents, by 43-34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, say divided government is the better way to go. And by 45-37 percent they say they'd rather see Republicans win control of Congress. (Which ain't gonna happen. As of now, House Republicans lament, the only question is how many seats they lose.) You're going to hear this argument a lot this week; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has even come up with a handy nickname for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and (in this construct) President Barack Obama: 'RePo.'

This seems to be a weak way to seek support from the voters. To me, it smacks of the negative ad phenomenon -- I might be bad but my opponent is worse.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

60 is more (important) than 270

In perhaps the surest sign that the MSM has moved beyond the presidential race and instead turned its attention to the Congressional sure to check out the growing number of stories asking if the Democrats will gain a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate.

These kinds of stories are the most obvious sign that the media believe that Barack Obama is going to have little problem securing the states he needs to grab at least 270 Electoral College votes.

In fact, that almost seems to be a foregone conclusion. The general tone among the media pundits is that John McCain faces an almost impossible task at this point of winning the presidency. The approximate half-dozen swing states tell the story, and they are either leaning toward Obama or too close to call at this point. What that means is that McCain is not catching fire, and his message is not resonating.

As you continue to read about and watch the final days of Campaign 2008 be sure to pay attention to this "60" theme -- it might be about the only dramatic element of Election Night.

If Sen. Obama cleans up the Eastern time swing states, then you're looking at the national media having a difficult time maintaining their audiences. Focusing on just how friendly (a dangerous term in politics) a Congress Obama will have will be one option in the effort to hold the audience.

And his most important ally has to be...

...Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. How else can you explain what the mayor (MAYOR!) of Moscow has been doing of late.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Now, ain't that nice!

Kudos to former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge...he sure knows how to treat a (long-time) friend.

Below 8,000?

The stock market could fall below that figure today. The opening numbers provide no confidence to those who are expecting it.

You can expect this to be the number one story in media conversations -- not to mention water cooler conversations -- today.

The end of the Oprah show?

Seems outlandish...until you consider this possibility.

Must See TV!

Regardless of your political preferences, Nov. 4 is Must See Election TV. How do we know? No network that could offer a significant programming alternative is.


Yes, call me a snob if you want, but television on Nov. 4 ought to be reserved for a serious discussion of the political issues of the day and of the future. Failing to do so would heighten the fear that if not used properly the medium would merely be "wires and lights in a box."

No finer words than those have been spoken about television.


It must be a terrible thing to reach the end of your professional life...and be faced with asking yourself critical questions about your legacy.

But this week both Alan Greenspan and Colin Powell are facing that scenario. Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve, acknowledged yesterday that the economic policies and message he supported and spread were largely wrong. And that mea culpa must have been very tough to admit. Think about it -- if you or I make a serious mistake at work, no more than a handful of people will know about it or be affected by it. But for Mr. Greenspan to admit that he was wrong also is an admission to hundreds of millions of people around the world that he placed their financial future in danger. It's no wonder, as my wife said to me last night, that he looked old and in pain as he spoke on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Powell didn't looked haggard or pained as he announced on Meet the Press last weekend that he was going to vote for Barack Obama. But anyone who thinks that Mr. Powell wasn't considering his legacy is, in my opinion, making a mistake.

It was he who went before the United Nations and outlined why Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world. It was he who said, in essence, "He needs to be taken out...and the U.S. military ought to be given the authority to do that."

Let's set aside our opinions about the war in Iraq...the FACTS are these -- what Mr. Powell said on that fateful February day was incorrect. I'll leave it to you to lay blame where you wish to place it. My point, instead, is that Mr. Powell has admitted his mea culpa and now is looking to an Obama administration as an opportunity to repair his image.

I was thinking the other day that I didn't recall seeing Mr. Powell in Minneapolis-St. Paul during the Republican National Convention, and I don't recall his name being mentioned in any of the important political addresses.

Legacy. What will Mr. Greenspan's be? What will Mr. Powell's be? And can either man repair it?

Throwing in the towel? (UPDATED)

The tone of this report suggests that many within the McCain campaign have given up...

Politico's Jonathan Martin, Mike Allen and John Harris report on growing despair at John McCain's HQ and the lack of communication between McCain's camp and GOP operatives on the outside.

They write: 'At his Northern Virginia headquarters, some McCain aides are already speaking of the campaign in the past tense. Morale, even among some of the heartiest and most loyal staffers, has plummeted. And many past and current McCain advisors are warring with each other over who led the candidate astray.'

'One well-connected Republican in the private sector was shocked to get calls and resumes in the past few days from what he said were senior McCain aides – a breach of custom for even the worst-off campaigns.'

'The cake is baked,' [said] a former McCain strategist. 'We're entering the finger-pointing and positioning-for-history part of the campaign. It's every man for himself now.'

A terrible way to run the final 10 days of the campaign -- scared, blaming others, looking for your next gig. But I also wonder if stories such as these lead to (or reinforce) the idea that McCain is going to get blasted on Election Day?

Moreover, the GOP is seriously concerned that it not only will lose the White House...but also several House and Senate seats. The Republicans on the defensive...or in full retreat is the theme of the weekend.

UPDATE -- At the same time some are quitting, others are fighting (and for the candidate). The New York Times reports that people within the McCain campaign are looking at a difficult, but potentially successful, road to victory on Nov. 4 -- win almost every swing state and cast doubt about Barack Obama on two or three key issues.

The Washington Post is correct in asserting that this strategy likely won't work, but at least there are some within the McCain camp who believe that you don't give up until you have crossed the finish line.

Alan Greenspan hammers the final nail... (updated)

...into the coffin containing the supposed virtues of ineffective, lax and impotent regulation of the banks and financial institutions. (Hey, come on, these institutions will police themselves!) Watching excerpts of his testimony last night, my wife noted that in her eyes Mr. Greenspan seemed to have aged rapidly. I thought the same, and who could blame him.

He, as is true of so many people, is in "a state of shocked disbelief" over the economic malaise affecting the world. And if I were Greenspan, I would have to feel that I was one of a small number of people deserving blame for what has happened.

Which brings up the issue of Greenspan's legacy: Will it be the man who helped many Americans (and others around the world) develop a financial nest egg...or will it be the man who didn't do enough to ensure Americans had a financial nest egg?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Disgusting (times two)

I came across this on I hope you find it as disgusting as I did --

The families of six members of Congress from Minnesota – AMY KLOBUCHAR, NORM COLEMAN, JOHN KLINE, MICHELE BACHMANN, JIM RAMSTAD and KEITH ELLISON – awoke Wednesday morning to find graffiti spray-painted on their homes.

'Scum' and 'Psalm 2' were recurring themes.

On Coleman's home: 'U R A criminal Resign or else.'

At Bachmann's: 'Still a target.'

U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider tells the Pioneer Press – whose story is up at Politico -- that the Capitol Police are working with local law enforcement on the case. The FBIS and the U.S. Attorney's office are also involved.

Coleman – who previously suspended his own negative advertising (although negative NRSC ads continue) -- calls the graffiti a 'physical manifestation' of the anger and partisanship that he said is tearing apart the country.'

'ANTI-AMERICAN': Bachmann has gotten plenty of attention for the double-A slur, but CQ's Jonathan Allen notes that she isn't the only Republican to use it this year. VIRGINIA FOXX and TED POE have tossed it out around on the House floor, he says.

And then a minute or two later, I found the story detailing how an intern attempted to attack the executive producer of a Minneapolis-St. Paul television station. Now that's just plain stupid.

More negative coverage for McCain

We could have predicted this bit of news, but I think the analysis is more interesting.

The study's authors suggest that McCain himself is responsible for most of the negative stories, and I'm inclined to accept that -- I've not made a secret in this blog that I've not been impressed with the overall tone and substance of his campaign. The Los Angeles Times adds that McCain's decline in popularity also might be contributing to the negative media coverage.

What, no one is willing to suggest that the mainstream media LIKE Obama?

The Palin wardrobe

I appear to be in the minority here, because I think this is just another distraction and a non-story. But the mainstream media see it differently.

TIME magazine's Karen Tumulty argues that it is a relevant story because the decision to fork out $150,000 to dress up the Republican vice presidential nominee runs counter to the "hockey mom" image that Palin built for herself.

The Associated Press (conveniently) found women and others outraged by the decision. Along the same lines, the Washington Post suggests that Mrs. Palin now has "an image problem." Another newspaper, the New York Times also wonders how the wardrobe will sit with the typical American family, including the now mythical Joe the Plumber.

My take on this story? If Palin hit the campaign trail dressed as "an Alaskan hockey mom," (with no disrespect at all to such women) she have been ridiculed for being out of touch and ill-suited (pun intended) for the office she was seeking, and these comments would have served to remind the audience that John McCain made a rash choice. (Are you reading liberal media bias here?)

And perhaps there is a larger issue here that the media also missed (oops!) -- why didn't any of them ASK how the governor (who clearly is not rich) was able to afford the expensive-looking clothes she was wearing?

Mind you, I think the argument offered by those on the right that the media are biased often is a bunch of baloney. As I have stated in other posts during this political season, we see the events on the presidential trail through the political lens in which we choose to see the world. And in this case, yes, I'm guilty of that. To me, the clothes that someone wears is not a political story, and in the economic and international climate in which we live today that is especially true.

I welcome your comments.

Brit Hume reflects

Some interesting and important thoughts from the soon-to-be retired FOX News anchor. Set aside whatever political preferences you have...this article is worthy of your time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A failed merger? A failed company?

Those are the (troubling) questions radio industry analysts are asking, as the merger between XM and Sirius to date has shown no signs of turning around the satellite radio industry.

I've made no secret in this blog that I was opposed to the merger, and that I thought the idea of satellite radio is, in many ways, overrated. That being said, the troubles that the industry is facing don't bring me any kind of satisfaction. I'm a firm believer in good radio...and I think satellite has the chance to deliver that.

Sarah Palin's politics...children...marriage

...and now clothes. All things considered news worthy.

Here's a snippet from a Jeanne Cummings story on --

'The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August. According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74. The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

'The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August. The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission's long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use. ...September payments were also made to Barney's New York ($789.72) and Bloomingdale's New York ($5,102.71). Macy's in Minneapolis ... received three separate payments totaling $9,447.71. The entries also show a few purchases at Pacifier, a top notch baby store, and Steiniauf & Stroller Inc. ... An additional $4,902.45 was spent in early September at Atelier, a high-class shopping destination for men.'

McCain-Palin spokesperson Tracey Schmitt: 'With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses. It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign.'

I ask just one question -- has anyone looked into the clothing expenses of any male national political figure? Would that, too, be considered a news story? Or is Mrs. Palin fair game here only because she's a she? (Is that technically three questions, when I promised to ask just one?)

The money and political game

It's a bad combination, and, yes, I welcome your "I disagree" opinions.

The Republicans in past years and the Democrats (more specifically Barack Obama) this year have turned the money and political game into something that should insult the common sense of any voter.

Mind you, it's legal. I'm just not sure it's ethical.

It's going to set a record!

That's the assumption right now being made by voting experts...who say the number of early voters portend an overall record number of votes being cast in the 2008 presidential election.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Afghan journalists...

...face the prospect of death and jail every time they do their jobs.

Sort of puts into perspective any frustrations you and I put up with in our lives, no?

She's become one of the boys

In an attempt to grab the ratings spotlight from Bill O'Reilly at FOX and Keith Olbermann at MSNBC, Campbell Brown of CNN has become one of them -- opinionated, at times caustic, and difficult to watch.

I agree with one statement in this story -- she's a journalist. Perhaps she and CNN's executives should remember that the next time the decision is made to let her voice an opinion.

27 of 50

And it soon could be 41 of 50. I'm referring to the number of states already in, or in danger of being in a recession.

Is it black and white?

This Washington Times article suggests that in an effort to cut into the lead Barack Obama enjoys in several key swing states (including Pennsylvania), the McCain campaign is intentionally targeting rural (read white) areas, where it hopes to generate support for their candidate.

That news comes on the heels of a report that indicates Obama is gaining support in key swing counties in two battleground states.

Perhaps the 2008 election is not over...yet? And if it's not, is the McCain campaign pursuing a strategy that you would approve?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why does this kind of thing happen?

The news of the beating of an Arkansas television news anchor reminds me again of the senseless acts of violence that happen in our culture.

Just as I told you...

...Colin Powell's decision to endorse Barack Obama had something to do with the professional and personal legacy of the man who many thought would be America's first black president.

Powell's decision almost ensures that he'll be persona non grata at future GOP conventions, but it also could lead to a healthy discussion about the future of the conservative movement within the party.

Of course, those conversations could lead to mudslinging and a corrosive atmosphere, but let's at this point presume that cooler heads will prevail.

Rush, Powell...and race

I think Rush Limbaugh is way off base here...interjecting race so bitterly into this already caustic election is not a good thing.

Call me naive...but I'm going to presume Colin Powell was not basing his endorsement of Barack Obama on race.

He's correct about that...and that...and that

Funny, but when you live by the also could die by it. This story provides a bit of caution for those media organizations in a rush to call this presidential race over.

Yes, the numbers RIGHT NOW suggest the road that John McCain has to travel is a difficult one...but he's going to travel it. And if there is a result on Nov. 4 that the media would classify as an upset...well, that would be because they set it up that way. And that's not the way to do journalism.

Well, so much for that

Doesn't appear that any important announcements will be coming from North Korea. Hmmm...looks as if that Japanese newspaper that made such a claim yesterday was wrong.

Ah, akkuracy. Such a beautiful thing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

An important announcement... (UPDATE) coming from North Korea. According to media reports in the Far East, we should expect it late tonight (based on the time difference between the East coast of the United States and Pyongyang).

Stay tuned. And let's see how the MSM deal with this story. My guess is there will be the initial "breaking news" followed by breathless coverage on the cable networks...until the stock market opens tomorrow, and then...

UPDATE: Sunday evening, 8:30 EDT -- No, nothing yet to update. But as I searched around, I came across an interesting photo essay about the life, times and people of North Korea.

I'm not surprised

The BIG story on this beautiful (at least that's the case here in Pittsburgh) Sunday morning is Colin Powell's announcement on NBC's Meet the Press that he will vote for Barack Obama.

You can use this link to see excerpts of the interview.

Are you surprised by this announcement? If you are, I ask why? Powell's decision is the only reasonable one he could have made at this point. Recognizing that McCain's presidential aspirations are fading, and Powell wants an opportunity to restore his political luster (lost when he was, for lack of a better word, duped by the Bush administration), and the mood of the country is for change, Powell made the only choice available to him.

I don't anticipate that Powell will seek a Cabinet post in an Obama administration, but if Obama is not considering him...he'd be making a mistake.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The McCain family is no fan of the New York Times

Need any evidence? Consider this excerpt from Mike Allen's blog --

The New York Times devotes the four middle columns above the fold to a Cindy McCain profile, 'The Long Run – Ambition and Ambivalence: Behind McCain, Washington Outsider Wanting Back In,' By Jodi Kantor and David M. Halbfinger: 'Cindy McCain, the wife of the Republican presidential nominee, has spent the last year pursuing a return to Washington: 'a harsh town' that does not suit her, she has said. Nor does campaigning, friends say. She has done relatively few solo events, grants interviews reluctantly- she declined to speak for this article - and in introducing her husband at events, she offers few of the heartwarming anecdotes that are the stock in trade of the political spouse. When she finishes, she stands silently behind him, sometimes with an approving smile, sometimes looking strained.'

They clearly didn't interview young Jack McDonald, who she takes care of when he comes to visit daddy at campaign headquarters.

The McCain campaign pushed back with unprecedented ferocity, with an 11:47 p.m. 'Statement on New York Times trash report on Mrs. McCain,' by McCain-Palin spokesman Michael Goldfarb: 'Today the New York Times launched yet another in a series of vicious attacks on Senator John McCain, this time targeting not the candidate, but his wife Cindy. Under the guise of a 'profile' piece, the New York Times fails to cover any new ground or provide any discernible value to the reader other than to portray Mrs. McCain in the worst possible light. ... It is a black mark on the record of a paper that was once widely respected, but is now little more than a propaganda organ for the Democratic party. The New York Times has accused John McCain of running a dishonorable campaign, but today it is plain to see where the real dishonor lies.'

This is the same 'propaganda organ' that Gov. Palin cited when (selectively but approvingly) quoting from a front-page article on William Ayers.

Kudos to the Chinese government

This blogger has made no secret of his doubts about the integrity of the Chinese government when it comes to the media. Here's one piece of news that gives me some optimism.

Where did he go wrong?

As I suggested a day or so ago, if you begin seeing stories in the MSM that move past the election and toward an analysis of what a Barack Obama presidency will look like and how John McCain failed...then you'll know that the race, in the minds of many MSM journalists, is over.'s your first example.

Is it fair to write off McCain at this point? There are some powerful indicators to say "yes." He's not showing any improvement in the polls, the ravaged economy is not working in his favor, Obama is not making any substantive errors on the campaign trail, and the mood of the country indicating that Obama is the better agent of change remain burdens to overcome.

I did think of something this morning -- am I alone in my disappointment in the final weeks of the campaign? Considering the amazing political twists and turns, combined with an energetic electorate that we've seen over the past 20 months...I wanted to end this campaign with a bang -- with an Election Night that went right down to the wire. Doesn't look like that will be the case.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Doing the math

Yes, I know...math is a dangerous subject for journalists. We like it about as much as we do root canal...with the anesthesia. But, bear with me...and check my math if you want to!

Before we begin, the numbers you see below are rounded and based on my analysis of multiple media organizations.

The political calculations should be determined by one of the amazingly talented scholars at nearby Carnegie Mellon University, but whatever the percentages...Barack Obama appears to be a safe bet to win the presidency. (But then again, didn't the New England Patriots look like a safe bet before last February's Super Bowl?) The Illinois senator has locked up close to 200 Electoral College votes -- based on states that traditionally vote Democratic and/or are sure to do so in 2008 -- compared to about 150 for John McCain.

More importantly, he is building support in states that have a combined 100 Electoral College votes. And it wouldn't surprise me at this point if on Election Night he grabbed another 10 to 20.

Put that together and Mr. Obama could grab, at minimum, close to 320 Electoral College votes, 50 more than the magic number required for victory.

For Mr. McCain to do what many think is impossible at this point (namely, find the political combination of states to get to 270), he's going to need the following --
1. Capture a good chunk of the "big numbered" swing states (and right now, for example, he's losing in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio)
2. Hold the traditional Republican-leaning states that are leaning the other way this year (can you say North Carolina and Virginia?)
3. Steal a win somewhere (uh...New Hampshire, maybe?)

Again, I'll leave it to the CMU minds to tell me how likely this combination of events is, and I'll end this post with this thought -- I had a feeling the Giants were going to keep the Super Bowl interesting. I have no such feeling now.

If there are fewer talking heads...

...then this might be an option for viewers to consider on Election Night. Certainly, the AP knows how to cover political races!

I disagree

The American Prospect reports that confusion is a principal result of the live tracking done by CNN during the presidential debates.

I disagree. The report is correct in asserting that there is no generalization that can be made from the results. But I don't see that as CNN's goal. Instead, I believe the network is giving its viewers an opportunity to determine how one set of critical voters reacts to announcements, claims and arguments made by the presidential candidates.

This is an important technology. Now, I also will admit that the old television news producer in me grumbles when I see it being used. I know news executives appreciate the chance to gauge how viewers are reacting to content -- but I also know that the technology becomes a wonderful (insert sarcastic laugh here) opportunity to get rid of stories that don't have public appeal.

A win for journalists in Minnesota...

...but the implications will likely be felt in other states. Read more here.

As we saw in Minneapolis...

...we now see in Denver -- once cooler heads prevail, journalists find that they are out of legal hot water. Sometimes we all need to chill out a little bit.

It used to be Florida... Ohio seems to be the state where distrust, disillusionment and anger are all tied to potential voting irregularities.

Having called Ohio home for eight years, stories such as this sadden me. The good people of Ohio deserve better than to have their state sullied by these reports.

When negative campaigning doesn't work... really doesn't work. Check out this snippet from an AP report (picked up by's Mike Allen) --

'When it comes to the public's image of John McCain, it's as if somebody dialed the electricity down in the past month. For Barack Obama, the juice is still flowing. People's regard for the Republican presidential nominee has deteriorated across the board since September, an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll shows. ...

'Negative campaigning and a month of intense public focus on collapsing global economic and financial markets have not been kind to McCain. The new AP-Yahoo News poll of likely voters, conducted this month by Knowledge Networks, shows more people viewing him favorably than unfavorably by just 5 percentage points, down from a 21-point difference in mid-September. During the same period, Obama went the other way, increasing a 5 percentage-point net favorable rating to 15 points. Now, Obama is seen favorably by 57 percent and McCain by 52 percent - a close margin that masks the opposite direction the two rivals' ratings are heading.'

Thursday, October 16, 2008

9.6 million

That's the's the (digital) question.

The DTV transition -- it's soooooo easy!

Sure, it is...check this out.

So, you want to be a college dean? get ready for some challenges. The new dean at the Newhouse School at Syracuse certainly understands that.

The general consensus... the MSM this morning is that while John McCain did well in the third presidential debate he did not rattle Barack Obama. Perhaps more importantly, Obama didn't make any mistakes.

Presuming the polls are accurate, and we have to believe they are, the window of opportunity for Mr. McCain closes more each day.

A man linked to the Quiz Show Scandal passes away

A very informative and interesting obituary from the Los Angeles Times, which reviews the life of long-time game show host Jack Narz. Narz was involved, albeit unwittingly, in the 1950s Quiz Show Scandal.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The final debate (updated and now complete)

I thought tonight we saw the most informative and most interesting presidential debate. (It is perhaps no coincidence that moderator Bob Schieffer was involved in this conversation between the two principal candidates.)

Among the relevant issues pertaining to tonight and to the end of Campaign 2008:

1. The consistent two-shot (through two cameras) of Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain was fascinating, and something I wish we would have seen at the first two debates -- plus the one involving the vice presidential candidates. The camera angles tonight allowed the viewer to see the confidence that comes with being ahead in the polls...and the despair that comes with being behind in them. Overall, I thought Mr. Obama looked more comfortable; Mr. McCain looked not necessarily on edge but he did look impatient.

2. The attack style employed by McCain worked...but not consistently. I thought he was at his best when he suggested that Obama will be the classic "tax and spend liberal Democrat." It was during these times that Mr. McCain used his best attacks. Unfortunately, he was at his worst when he (too often) cut off Mr. Obama as the Illinois senator attempted to complete a thought. In the end, I maintain tonight as I have for the past couple of weeks that attacking can work for McCain...but going negative is a style that clearly doesn't suit him. And it doesn't suit his running mate either.

3. I saw nothing tonight that should substantially alter the political picture, and this means that "a tie goes to the Democrats." In fact, I thought the one comment from the day that could resonate most in the next couple of days was delivered by longtime Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha, who suggested today that western Pennsylvania is "racist." I wonder how the two candidates are going to respond to that one when they are asked about it. Let's hope they ignore it. What Murtha said borders on the ridiculous

4. At this point, I return to an idea I had in a recent post: If I were running the campaigns, I would...
-Keep Obama on the straight and narrow. Nothing seems to have fazed him over the long (20 months!!) campaign -- except perhaps the rhetoric offered by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. There is no reason to think that Obama will become reckless over the remaining 20 days before the election;
-Demand that McCain turn on the charm. Let's face it, right now he has nothing to lose: the dreadful economy is weighing down all Republicans; the chronic mismanagement of the Bush administration is being laid at his feet; and the toxicity that has become the Republican brand has disgusted Independent and swing voters. McCain has to hope (pray might be a better word) at this point that he can use his personality to convince the voters that he is the safer choice on Nov. 4.

5. It will be worth watching the attention given to Mr. Obama over the next week. If the media believe -- and I think most do -- that this race is done, then the kinds of stories about him are going to shift. You'll see more conversation about "what an Obama White House will look like" or "who are possible Cabinet members" or "what should be his priorities over the first 100 days" or "will he have coattails" or "how does he begin to reach out to Republicans." You'll also see less of McCain. You'll hear little about negative advertising.

Roger slings the Mudd

And for the most part, what he said was correct --

-Broadcast news is a misnomer; news has become fluff and celebrity
-There are 24-7 news outlets that seem more interested in pandering to ratings than informing
-And credible international news? Better keep that remote handy...that kind of news is almost impossible to find. Thank goodness there's the BBC on my cable system.

Careful editing...or an ethical breach

I'd vote for the latter. It seems to me that any editing of a political debate -- except for foul or abusive language from the audience -- is a bad idea. Regardless of the intent, it can look like favoritism.

Last night's Frontline program

I hope you had the chance to see last night's Frontline on PBS. It was a great 2-hour program (come to think of it, it usually is a great 2-hour program) that examined who Barack Obama and John McCain are.

I was struck by something as I watched the program, and the observation crystallized in my mind how far race relations still need to go in this country.

If you saw the program, you likely noticed that every "major" journalist interviewed for the program was white. Going from memory, the roughly 10 journalists were associated with three of America's leading newspapers and two of its most popular magazines. They represented themselves, their news organizations and the political history and context well. Don't misread anything into my comments at the beginning of this paragraph.

You likely also noticed that every person associated with John McCain was white. Whether they knew him personally or professionally was not relevant, they were Caucasian.

Finally, you likely also noticed that slightly more than half the people who spoke about Barack Obama were black.

Mind you, I'm not criticizing the interview choices the producers of the program made; I'm merely noting what I saw.

If you've not seen the program, I encourage you to find the two hours to watch it. You'll learn quite a bit about the two leading candidates to be the next president of the United States.

The message flopped... stop using it.

Seems like a simple lesson for politics. Let's see if John McCain keeps the following news items (quoted in Mike Allen's daily blog) in mind, as he plots what he'll say at tonight's debate and how he'll handle the final three weeks of his campaign.

Reuters' John Whitesides: 'Several recent polls have shown McCain's attacks on Obama's character largely backfired, increasing unfavorable opinions about McCain among voters looking for solutions on the economy.' There is no question the negative campaigning just isn't working,' pollster John Zogby said. 'To make an impact in this debate, McCain needs to be proactive and be very specific about the way he would lead an economic recovery.'

A continual dive into the negativity would seem to open wide the door to a Democrat in the White House joined by increased numbers of Democrats in the House and Senate. I doubt that is the memory John McCain wants the country and his party to have of his presidential run.

Well, we know what this dad thinks

But after reading this, you might agree with me that while the dad was being creative...the mom is a wee bit upset.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How many daily newspapers are traveling regularly with both presidential candidates?

The number can be counted on one hand.

Increasing the lead

The evidence is mounting again this morning that Nov. 4 will be a landmark day for Democrats and a disaster for Republicans:

1. New information on the presidential race suggests Barack Obama is increasing his lead over John McCain in four key swing states
2. The GOP is directing its money to protect the sagging fortunes of some of its incumbents
3. The "go negative" decision made in the past week by the McCain campaign appears to not be working

What does this collective data suggest? Right now it tells me that McCain is correct when he grumbles that Obama is already measuring the drapes in the White House. There appears to be little the McCain camp can do to stop the momentum. Sure, there are still three weeks until the electorate goes to the polls. But only the most naive person would believe that sizable numbers of voters are going to change their minds between now and Election Day.

The undecided voter, who is becoming harder to find these days, must go for McCain and in large percentages in order for McCain to have a chance.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How do you pay for a stimulus package?

As's Glenn Thrush notes in his daily depends.

After being forced to pass a $700 billion rescue for banks at gunpoint, the Democratic majority in Congress is almost certain to call a November lame duck session to throw $100-$150 billion back at taxpayers and strapped localities.

This may be the tip of the deficit-spending iceberg, the first wave of a massive New Deal-ish spending program designed to buttress the demand side of the economy at a time when private consumption is declining, sapping growth.

Our Marty Kady reports: 'Democratic leaders are coordinating a potential lame-duck session with the Obama campaign, discussing an economic stimulus package of $100 billion to $150 billion. [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders plan to unveil details at an economic forum [on Monday]. In the stimulus, Democrats are considering expansion of food stamps, extension of unemployment insurance, aid to states facing a budget crunch and billions in infrastructure spending for bridges and roads. The infrastructure spending in particular is designed to create jobs in bridge and road construction.'

Still, things may not go all that smoothly. 'There is a fundamental difference, however, between Barack Obama and Democratic leaders on one subject - how to pay for the stimulus. Democrats don't have a 'pay-go' proposal, while Obama would pay for the stimulus with a windfall profits tax' on oil companies.

Faith of My Fathers

One of the better political biographies I've read. My wife's grandmother bought it for me as a Christmas gift a few years ago. She had this strange look when told I wanted to read something about a Republican.

She was convinced, I think, that my wife's family had corrupted me. No, at that time I was of full confidence that McCain was the best GOP candidate. And looking back at the past 8 years...nothing has changed my mind.

The youth vote in Pennsylvania

Of course that headline caught my attention.

I hear two kinds of comments from students these days -- those who are vocal are going to the polls (so tehy day) on Election Day and are going to select Barack Obama (so they say). There also is a quiet bunch, and they're more difficult to read. Are they voting for John McCain but staying mum about it? Are they, too, going to go for Obama but are just not talking about it? Are they not going to the polls?

That last group of students is pretty good at not tipping their hands. I don't play poker, but if I did...I'm not sure I'd want them at my table.

Finally, some good stock market news

A little governmental involvement here...a little optimism by investors there...bang, stock market roars. The Dow set a one-day points increase today, soaring more than 900 points (or 11%). Hooray!

Funny, but maybe this governmental regulation idea isn't so bad after all! Here's a report from Reuters:

'Governments across the world moved on Monday to shore up confidence in the global banking system with a slew of bank bailouts worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Stocks markets reacted positively, with European shares opening up more than 4.5 percent following solid gains in Asia.'

When is "recent" not "recent" enough?

When it comes to reading the leaves (and not of the "tea" variety)...sometimes you have an answer.

I'm curious why more mainstream media in the U.S. haven't asked this question already.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

And now for something completely different

Regular readers of this blog know I'm a huge sports fan, and post-season baseball ranks among my preferred sports moments. As I watched the Red Sox-Rays game last night, I was again struck by something.

Am I the only one who has noticed that Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox pitcher, seems to be fazed by absolutely nothing? He couldn't find the strike zone in the first inning, yet his facial expression never changed. He gave up no hits until the 7th inning, yet you'd have been convinced by looking at his face that nothing important was taking place.

Not sure if "Dice-K" is a poker player...but, man, would he be great at it.

Abuse of power

Without a doubt, one of the worst findings that can be made about a political leader. And when this person wants to be the vice president, the finding is especially galling.

However, keep this full report about Sarah Palin in perspective; it also suggests that are decision to seek the dismissal of a state trooper was an appropriate one.

Friday, October 10, 2008

And you thought the spying on American citizens was over?

Well, think again because if this story is true, then we're again faced with the uncomfortable possibility of technology being used in ways that violate the privacy we as Americans enjoy.

Maybe it is because the latest allegations involve the potential for American military personnel, but this story can do nothing but inflame political tensions that already are at a boiling point. What can (or should) Congress do? Some thoughts appear in this report.

Did you honestly ever think...

...that you'd see the day that a REPUBLICAN president would be looking at (partially) nationalizing some American banks? Come to think of it, did you ever think you'd see the day that ANY president would consider that option?

But with the Dow sinking faster than John McCain's chances of winning the presidency and with global markets tanking right along with the Dow, Mr. Bush seems to have little choice.

Yes, conservatives are going to rail against anything that smacks of government involvement. But perhaps their anger is a recognition (whether they choose to acknowledge it) that their hands-off argument has in fact contributed heavily to this mess.

Yes, I'm in favor of letting the markets have a healthy degree of freedom. But what has happened over the past month is in large measure a reflection on too much freedom, not enough government intervention, and a (naive) belief that business would do the right thing. Even our friends in Europe are outraged. And well they should be.

Money can't buy you love...

...but it can buy time on the television networks. If you needed any evidence that the Obama-Biden ticket is surging...and flush in money...all you need to do is consider that it is about to have a 30-minute uninterrupted shot at making its case to the nation.

As I said a few days ago in a separate post, it's time to start thinking seriously about a landslide win on Nov. 4.


While there is blame to go around for the financial mess that is afflicting this country, I find it hard to add two Democrats to the list. But Sen. John McCain believes that Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd do deserve blame.

I'll let you decide that one, and whether the anger of conservatives being directed at McCain for his support of bailout plans is valid. Then there also is the raw emotion evident at other McCain rallies.

In the interim, you've got to have a significant amount of sympathy for baby-boomers and retirees. Consider how much money they've lost in recent weeks because of the stock market meltdown.

Consider this -- the Dow fell below 10,000 on Monday...9,000 on Thursday...and is threatening the 8,000 mark this morning.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Challenge more...agree with less

That's the general consensus of the as it assesses the second presidential debate, which generated solid television ratings. suggests that all debate moderators need to have the flexibility to hold up a debate in order to challenge a candidate when he/she makes a statement that can be construed as false or misleading.

For what it's worth, I agree. But I also think that no candidate would agree to such a condition. Let's face it, the candidates want the debate forum in order to appeal to a large audience...and with an unfiltered message to go with that. Now whether reputable journalists ought to agree is another matter.

An intriguing question facing the FCC

Should low-power television stations be given full-power status?

There are persuasive arguments on both sides, and many of them are highlighted in this Broadcasting and Cable report.

Yes, agree

And I agree because I wrote about this very scenario just two or three days ago.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Less cash...fewer ads

Another indicator today that the global financial fiasco is going to hurt media companies in a couple of ways -- less growth and fewer ads are among them.

You can't blame this one on Kevin Martin

But someone has to be blamed. I can't believe this is yet another government program that could run out of money!

And well he/she should

If the details in this story are accurate, then, yes, going to jail for this citizen journalist would be acceptable.

The winners and losers

Are you beginning to see a trend to these political debates -- neither person on the stage wins, and that means the Democrats win. That "no one won" angle is being highlighted in many media accounts, including this one from TIME magazine, this morning of last night's debate between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama.

And that means...well,'s Roger Simon said it perfectly: 'McCain loses by not winning.'

We're down to one more presidential debate, which will be important but is also the "Hail Mary" (to borrow a football term) opportunity for McCain.

I understand that CNN political analyst James Carville used a witty expression last night to indicate that he believed the presidential race is over. I don't agree with him...but I'm getting close to thinking that.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tuesday's presidential debate

Unlike politicians of all stripes, I don't have anything substantive to say about tonight's presidential debate. I spent the evening at an awards ceremony for a colleague who was named the IABC Business Communicator of the Year.

How about you tell me how the debate went! I'm always curious to get comments from readers of this blog. So, all of you Democrats -- fire away. All of you Republicans -- let loose your vitriol. And all of you Independents and still uncommitted voters -- what are you thinking?

If the economic crisis continues... can expect that local media outlets all across the country are going to quickly see a drop in advertising dollars. What are the ramifications of this scenario. Some answers are provided in this Advertising Age report.

All the News That's Fit to Print...

...just in fewer sections!

Yes, that appears to be the new motto for The New York Times.

Attack mode

Am I the only one disappointed to learn that Sen. John McCain might very well use this last month of the presidential race to attempt to sully the character of his opponent? If this strategy becomes reality, I would indeed be disappointed.

Such a strategy, I think, will not work. Instead, McCain ought to use the final four weeks of this fascinating 2008 political year to highlight where he and Sen. Barack Obama are different. The Wall Street Journal suggests this morning that McCain needs to tap into the frustration being felt across the electorate...and to make that anger work for him. This strategy would be more appropriate for a campaign that insisted that the negative approach to past elections was not relevant any longer. TIME magazine offers a similar assessment:

Time contributor Mike Murphy: 'McCain's best option now is to ditch the chainsaw and offer a scared and angry country what it badly wants: hope and leadership.'

For his part, Obama needs to counter-punch, and I suspect he will.

Let's see how this "go negative" approach manifests itself in tonight's second presidential debate, which likely will be a bit testy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

If you can get to Philadelphia towards the end of the month...

...this conference might be worth your time.

I've not felt this until today (UPDATED)

Landslide win?

Yes, we need to be careful reading individual polls...but the general trend of those polls suggests that Barack Obama is holding firm in states that traditionally have gone Democratic, and he is, at minimum, showing strength in swing states. And with the news from this morning that he also might be able to put traditional GOP states (such as Virginia) in his column...I'm beginning to wonder if we're looking at a rather comfortable win for Obama (and the Democrats) on Election Night.

So, where are the potential "game changers" for McCain? It starts with a successful effort in tomorrow night's second presidential debate. From there, he needs to get traction from his message about change. He also needs to find a way to have his running mate re-connect with voters. He also has to de-link himself from the financial bailout mess.

This is becoming a taller order by the day.

UPDATE: And focusing on petty issues such as this one is not going to help the McCain campaign gain traction with the general public.

Why reading polls can be dangerous

Consider this nugget from today's Glenn Thrush daily blog on --

The fiscal downturn has shot Barack Obama to a big lead in Minnesota and Democratic Senate hopeful Al Franken is rising in the same updraft. The Star Tribune poll released over the weekend showing Obama leading McCain by a 55-to-37 margin after the pair were deadlocked last month. On Saturday, the paper released a Senate survey showing Franken leading incumbent Norm Coleman 43 to 34 percent, with Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley pulling down a surprising 18 percent.

Then again, a SurveyUSA poll released the day before had Coleman up by 10.

I don't think he'll be able to (UPDATED)

That's my reaction/response to the question posed in this TIME magazine article.

As I've mentioned in other postings (and it's always a bit troubling when I see the MSM posting stories days or weeks after these same ideas were highlighted in this blog -- aren't they supposed to be ahead of the curve?), there are at least three issues weighing down the McCain-Palin campaign --
1. The economy
2. The perception that Barack Obama will be the agent of change
3. The toxic Republican brand.

McCain can't be faulted for the economy nor for the sense that Obama will be better at fostering change. But it's that third item -- the toxicity of the Republican Party -- that at this point is his most unsolvable problem. Whether he deserves to be linked to it is something each voter needs to determine, and it's my sense that at this point many within the electorate are listening to the message that McCain is part of the GOP, no matter how hard he attempts to run from it. And that linkage also is spreading to the House and Senate.

Yes, the situation could change in the remaining 30 days, but it will take quite an effort from the McCain campaign to generate a successful strategy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Voter registration

Spread the word -- tomorrow is the last day to register to vote for the November general election.

What is happening here in Pittsburgh will be similar to other cities across the country.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The second presidential debate...

...means more to John McCain than it does to Barack Obama.

Consider the following --
1. McCain is behind in the polls and running out of days to catch up
2. The "town hall" format for the second debate plays to McCain's strengths of delivering "straight talk" to an audience
3. McCain has given up on winning Michigan; his "270" strategy is much tougher now
4. Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, has not committed any major gaffes to this point
5. McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, did not win (though I don't think she lost) the vice presidential debate held earlier this week
6. The economic numbers continue to wobble badly, and the Republicans are to blame

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The preliminary numbers suggest...

...more people watched last night's vice presidential debate than the initial presidential debate. Readers of this blog should not be surprised -- I told you earlier this week to not at all be surprised if the television viewership were to be higher for Palin and Biden than it was for McCain and Obama.

The media recap of the "veep" debate

Spare yourself the need to read through the multiple media reports this morning about the vice presidential debate...almost all of them agree with what I offered last night.

The general consensus:
1. Gov. Palin and Sen. Biden both did well
2. Neither delivered a knockout blow, and neither committed a major gaffe
3. McCain-Palin need to start scoring points in a hurry

There are some additional reports out there focusing more on Palin's performance; you can track those down through the typical mainstream media sites.

The answer: Pennsylvania, Minnesota or Wisconsin

The question: Well, if I told you, then you wouldn't read this piece from

Looks like the House is going to vote yes

And bailout the banks.

Set aside whatever feelings you have about this issue (yes, I admit that's a difficult request!) and ask yourself if you're satisfied with how the media have covered this story? In my opinion, I see too many stories from Capitol Hill...and not enough from Main Street.

That's a mistake.


Happens all the time in local television news...but when it happens in Pittsburgh, you can bet Post-Gazette TV critic Rob Owen will be all over it.

Here, he offers a strong analysis of why these changes are taking place now in the usually stable Pittsburgh television market.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"The press coverage of this campaign has not been very good"

Something I said? Yes, but I'm not quoting myself.

Instead check out what one prominent media critic thinks of the MSM coverage, to date, of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Vice presidential debate, initial reactions

I thought the vice presidential debate between Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden was better than last week's that involved the presidential candidates.

Both the governor and the senator were on the top of their game; both defended their party's presidential nominees, criticized the other party's top of the ticket, avoided getting trapped by questions that could have derailed them, and, perhaps, most importantly spoke with a firm commitment about why their party should win on Election Day.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, who "won" the debate likely will be determined by the political lens through which you saw tonight's contest. Liberals and Democrats are sure to put significant stock in the "McCain will be just like Bush" theme that Mr. Biden repeatedly referenced. Conservatives and Republicans are sure to acknowledge that the comments from Mrs. Palin regarding a McCain-Palin ticket being one of "real change" resonated with them.

I'll add one side note before moving on -- I thought Gwen Ifill had one bad moment. Early on she cut off Mrs. Palin as she was making a comment. Now, it is possible that the governor had taken too long to answer a question, and I'm sensitive to the difficult role a moderator plays in such circumstances. But it felt awkward, as I saw it from my living room. (And did you notice the Palin comment late in the debate about the media and the "filter." Wow, this ticket really is attempting to use that perception of media bias to its advantage.)

Thus, my initial impression ends with this -- if Biden and Palin did well tonight, as I contend they did, then in the end the Obama-Biden ticket is the "winner." I don't mean Biden won tonight's debate, but I do mean that with Obama opening up a national lead and an advantage in a few key swing states...the McCain-Palin ticket must score points and quickly. Tonight's debate was a great opportunity to do that. I don't think it happened. To borrow (and paraphrase) an old sports line -- tie goes to the Obama-Biden campaign.

A fantastic conversation (additional details incorporated)

I just finished a great 90 minutes with my Introduction to Broadcasting students. I intended to spend only a couple minutes on tonight's vice presidential debates, but as is often the case -- great conversations last a lot longer than you ever expected.

Among the highlights:
1. The controversy (a term I use carefully) surrounding whether Gwen Ifill ought to be the moderator of tonight's debate because of the book she is writing
--Ifill is writing a book about the increase in African-Americans on the country's political scene, and that information has been used to question whether Ifill can be neutral in tonight's debate
2. Finding bias (not just the perception of it)
--My students unanimously agreed that MSNBC, FOX and CNN are biased, but we got caught up in how you prove it. Perhaps the best answer was provided by one student who suggested that anything (i.e. Ifill and the debate) that magnifies the discussion about bias does enough damage by itself
3. Determining why someone who is biased should not be allowed to moderate a debate and/or get deeply involved in the political process
--I attempted to point out that often times jurors swear that they will set aside any preconceived notions they have about an issue before they are empaneled. I added that for a journalist, that is not good enough; they need to remember that their mission is to bring the full story (as best as they can define that term at the moment, of course) to their audience. Someone who is considered biased cannot do that (and not only in a debate setting) because fairly or unfairly they will be seen as supporting one candidate or position over another
4. Why news is "value neutral"
--News is "value neutral" because it is not liberal, conservative, Democratic or Republican. It is information that is necessary for the public and for the health of democracy. When news is presented in such a manner, a full account of a story plus robust and impartial analysis plus the necessary context is presented. Under such conditions, the public benefits. So does democracy. Those groups suffer under any other circumstance because news is then used as a tool not to inform, but to persuade, influence or sway opinion.
5. How FOX, MSNBC and CNN are guilty of presenting non-value neutral news, which allows for the absence of a full story, analysis and context
--We suggested that on the political spectrum, CNN would fall in the middle (though not necessarily be politically in the middle) with MSNBC to its left and FOX to its right. Thus, one network blatantly attempts to present information supporting a liberal viewpoint, and another blatantly attempts to support a conservative viewpoint. Again, CNN -- in my opinion, left of center but not nearly left as MSNBC -- is not neutral. What follows under this cable news philosophy is a presentation of news as something like raw meat -- designed to rev up an a particular audience.

A great conversation indeed. But in some ways not a good one to have. I admitted to my students that I was disappointed that such a conversation was taking place because in my opinion it indicated that the cable news networks were failing to do their jobs. They were successfully carving up the audience for financial and ratings reasons, but I didn't see that as something to celebrate.

If I were running the campaigns from now until Election Day, I would...

1. Promote Barack Obama every chance I had, pound away at the horrendous economic mistakes the Republicans have made over the past 8 years, and link every one of those errors to John McCain

2. Minimize the role Joe Biden played on the campaign trail and script him every step of the way

3. Promote Sarah Palin every chance I had, ditch the script she's been working on, use her to attract moms and Independents, and label Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal

4. Use John McCain to demonstrate that the bailout bill will be a bit like an Obama presidency -- one crisis after another -- and offer reassurance that he's the steady hand needed in times of uncertainty

For what it's worth...

If I were in the House, I'd vote "no" on the bailout bill, which is a whopping 451 pages!

Still too much in there that favors the fat cats...still too little in there that fully protects the little guy. Yes, it's better now. But it could be better. And it also might not yet be addressing the most important issues. (And did you see all the "pork" thrown into it?)

Right now, I'd rather be cautious...than wrong.

Without the filter of the MSM???

Consider this comment from Gov. Sarah Palin (which was made to Sean Hannity, and is quoted in Mike Allen's daily blog) --

'I look forward to ... getting to speak directly to Americans, without that filter of mainstream media trying to I think maybe censor some of my comments as we lay out the contrasts between these two different tickets. It's going to be a very clear choice that Americans have on November 4'

I really dislike the word "censor" because to me that connotes something far beyond what the MSM attempt to do. However, the "beat up the MSM" is a theme that the Republicans started at their national convention, and they've not let up.

The damage is being done, as I see it. I've heard from a variety of people in casual conversations who believe that the media ARE hoping for a Barack Obama win on Nov. 4. (Yes, I've also heard from people who think that "bias" argument is a bunch of garbage.)

Here's the point -- the MSM to date have done nothing to demonstrate to the Republicans or anyone else that they are NOT biased in one way or another. The media regularly use the argument that they are "objective," and that bias is in the eye of the beholder.

These statements are true, but think about this -- would you go to a doctor whom you weren't sure really cared about you? Would you allow him or her to determine your short- and long-term health needs if you thought he/she didn't like you? No. You'd go somewhere else.

Think about that. And as you do consider this comment from an Obama spokeswoman:
'John McCain is now blaming everything that's happening to his campaign on the press. This is a candidate who would not be the Republican nominee were it not for the fawning coverage he got in his first campaign.'

Tonight's "veep" debate

As much anticipation as there was last week for the initial presidential debate between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, I think there is more for tonight's vice presidential debate. One media outlet suggests the debate has the feel of a NASCAR race.

The (not-so objective, if you ask me) mainstream media continue to suggest that the debates are make-or-break moments for the Republican ticket. If that is true, then by everyone's account Mr. McCain delivered last week.

Now it is Gov. Sarah Palin's turn.

As I've mentioned in other posts, the "winner" of tonight's debate will be determined in part by the political lens through which a person views it. In other words and presuming there are no huge mistakes by either Gov. Palin or Sen. Joe Biden, a conservative/Republican is likely to believe Mrs. Palin won the debate. At the same time, a liberal/Democrat is going to believe Mr. Biden won.

This reality (meaning a biased audience viewpoint) is more than acceptable. But it is not when it comes to the media. And here is where I expect the conversation tonight and tomorrow to bog down.

I am not at all comfortable with cable news prognosticators rambling on about winners and losers, though by this point I've given up expecting anything better. The over-the-air networks are not much better these days -- consider this comment from ABC's George Stephanopolous (the comment was taken from Mike Allen's daily blog):
'Any mistake or gaffe by Palin could be fatal with a new poll finding voters are now questioning their commitment to Republican presidential candidate John McCain because of her.'

And that means that from the moment I turn on my television tonight until the moment I shut it off...I'll be watching C-SPAN.

I'll try to offer more thoughts throughout my busy work day.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A coming conservative crack-up?

Forget the alliteration...listen to the message. The American Prospect's Paul Waldman is hitting on a relevant point here -- the conservative brand, as its been known for almost 30 years, could be heading for an electorate disaster on Nov. 4.

But more importantly, the conservative brand might be in need of significant reformulation. The mainstream media have been hinting at this at various times during this campaign, and whether you subscribed to the media bias notion...let's face it, the media are spot on with this analysis.

Oh, really?

You've got to love the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- nothing like a little bit of politicking:

'The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today launched an inside-the-beltway radio advertising campaign urging Congress to act immediately to pass a responsible bill that will stabilize our financial system and ensure that consumers and businesses will continue to have access to credit. The 30-second ad calls on leaders in Congress to come together in a bi-partisan manner and to address this crisis.'

This information comes from Mike Allen at

Hmmm..just the perception ought to be enough (UPDATED)

Would you believe -- the moderator of tomorrow night's vice presidential debate is writing a book that offers tacit support for Barack Obama?

I'm not implying that Gwin Ifill isn't going to be objective when she directs the debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin...but am I the only one who thinks that the perception alone that she can't be objective ought to be enough to allow someone else to stand in for her?

UPDATE: It looks like the GOP is starting to feel desperate about the general election. There are calls for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Palin to go on the attack. You can bet this means two things -- the vice presidential debate will be a bit testy tomorrow night AND the poll numbers are sliding away from McCain.