The ESPN approach to political coverage

I loved this post from Anthony Wright about the media (excepting Fox news, of course) would do well to cover the truly nutty town hall protesters in the way in which ESPN covers streakers, etc.  Which is to say, not at all.  Wright:

Everybody deserves a chance to speak his or her mind; nobody
disputes that. But how much attention should the media give these
people? It seems to me this is one case when the political media–or,
at least, Fox–could take its cues from the sports media.

When fans at a professional sporting event try to make a spectacle
of themselves–by being unruly or abusive, or running onto the
field–the networks go out of their way to avoid showing it. Why?
Because providing airtime to the disrupters would give too much
incentive for others to do the same at stadiums across the country.
Similarly, the media should focus on the issues of health reform,
rather than the rude and belligerent behavior of a relative few.

It seems clear to me that the protests are less about the substance of
the health reforms–which is often attacked with claims that have no
basis in reality–and more about a vehicle to oppose President Obama,
for whatever reason. They are merely the second episode to the “tea
party” programming that Fox News sponsored earlier in the year, where
the channel even provided the headline speakers across the country,
including here in Sacramento. (Those were similarly disconnected from
actual policy, as it was an anti-tax protest directed at the stimulus
which actually included a major tax cut.).

No one disputes the right to peacable protest, but actual disruption is another matter.  Televised baseball games would end up taking another hour dealing with all the crazies if those running on the field, etc., were rewarded by TV coverage.  Covering the nuts encourages the nuts. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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