Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Press Needs a Postelection Postcard

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Press Needs a Postelection Postcard

Article excerpt

A salute to the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center for its sensible and timely monitoring of the 1992 presidential election.

The fourth and final installment of the center's studies on "The Media and the Campaign '92" was released to the public in early January, not bad for an academic study of almost anything.

The monitoring effort, under the wise eye of the center's executive director, Everette Dennis, was 80 "unpreachy" it should carry on uninterruptedly, particularly after Dennis' sweeping conclusion that:

The American public "witnessed what may well be the best election coverage in the history of the United States."

Wow!

He says this, however, after questioning whether former President Bush got the short end of the media's stick, the media's continued love affair with polls, and their salacious coverage of Gennifer and Jennifer.

So much for Republican strategist Roger Ailes' prediction of two years ago, "If you didn't like the '88 campaign, you'll hate '92."

There is a danger inherent in the Freedom Forum accolade. Give the press a "best-ever" grade, and it could fall back into its Reagan-era beddy-bye mode or go neurotically negative in the other direction.

The signs already are there. Uneasy with any change in their spoon-fed routine, many in the Washington press, as columnist Ellen Goodman said, "seem unwilling to give the man a wedding night, let alone a honeymoon."

So here is my proposition. The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center should reopen its seasoned and very well-connected monitoring shop, and issue quarterly reports on how the Washington press corps covers' the new administration over at least the next year or so.

Dennis himself makes the case for keeping the spotlight burning.

In the introduction of his final report, he said:

"Efforts this year to engage readers and viewers on issues were impressive. Clearly such issues as taxes, the economy, health care, and education were not just manufactured for the election period and they deserve more attention and analysis."

For the coming months and years ahead, the Freedom Forum report urges the media to build on last year's performance by:

"Anticipating people's desire for high-quality news that addresses their concerns both as individuals and public citizens. …

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