Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wooing the media

The Republican campaign for the presidency has mostly been hostile to the press. Santorum and Gingrich routinely slam the "elites" of the "liberal media." At times you would think they are running against the media rather than against Romney or even Obama.

Romney has not been as outspoken in identifying the media as the enemy, but neither has his campaign done much to woo the media. Apparently, all that is changing.

According to Politico, the Romney campaign is on a "charm offensive" to try to cozy up to the reporters who are following their candidate around the country. Even the standoffish candidate himself is said to be making himself more available to reporters and trying to interact with them on a human level. Of course, interacting on a human level is not something that Romney is noted for, so I'm not sure how much help that will be to his campaign.

Politicians and the reporters who cover them are supposed to be in an adversarial relationship, and it is hard to imagine a more adversarial interaction than that between Gingrich or Santorum and their posse of reporters. But I would think that a wise candidate would seek to have at least nominally friendly relationships with the press. After all, reporters are human, and they are more likely to give the benefit of a doubt to someone who doesn't treat them like something they want to scrape off the bottom of their shoe. They might even be persuaded to say nice things about a person who treats them decently.

As a consumer of news, I would hope that reporters would not be overly swayed by any candidate's charm offensive. On the contrary, I would want them to be clear-eyed and fair in their reporting, but also to hold the candidate's feet to the fire on the issues of the day. I would not want them to ask leading questions which beg for a foreordained answer, nor would I want them to engage in trivialities.

The press, when it does its job, has an important role to play in political campaigns. Unfortunately, all too often, the press does not do its job and all of us are less well informed and less able to perform our duties as citizens because of it.

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