Last week saw a slew of stories regarding Ron Paul. Or rather, stories about the lack of Ron Paul—related stories. The Daily Show, ABC News, New York magazine, Salon, The Washington Examiner, the Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Caller, and The New American are just a few who rushed to weigh in on the 'to cover or not to cover' debate regarding the twelve-term Texas congressman.
MSM’s recent surge in coverage about coverage of Ron Paul is so concerned with trying to convince itself that Paul is unelectable that the media has blinded itself to the real issue: the fact that air time can create a viable candidate out of a nobody and that lack thereof can abort even the most promising campaigns. If that idea isn't upsetting enough on its own, the incredible power wielded by the fourth estate is made even more unnerving by the media’s insatiable appetite for the fresh face, the popular story, and any tidbit that can be twisted into exciting copy or TV.
Indeed, the talking heads have already masticated and disposed of the slew of recent headline-making candidates. Remember that time that Michele Bachmann won the straw poll then did all five Sunday morning talk shows? Unsatisfied with the rise of a fringe candidate (whose 4823 votes were deemed significant enough to launch her into the “top tier” while Paul’s 4671 votes were written off as a poor predictor of his performance), the media dropped Bachmann in favor of Rick Perry soon after his announcement that he was running.
Some would say that Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich (yes, he’s still in the race), Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain (also still running), Thaddeus McCotter (yes, that’s his real name), and Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer III (also his real name) are a sizeable field filled with so many unknowns that the MSM couldn't possibly want more presidential hopefuls since they are already flailing in their attempts to report on the current group. But now that it has been a week since Perry announced his bid, the media is hungry for a new flavor-of-the-day candidate.
Speculation over the entrance of some relatively low-profile names is still circulating—if you can consider George Pataki, Chris Christie, and Rudy Giuliani to be low profile names. And then there are the big guns: Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin. Both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal ran pieces today highlighting the likelihood of a new entrant, or two, or three.
Indeed, the Journal deems speculation about the continued expansion of the GOP field to be important enough to be front page news (albeit below the fold). Not to worry though, the paper did do more intensive reporting on the candidates actually in the race. There was one other article about the field in today’s paper, located in the Opinions section back on A11. It posited that Rick Perry will win the nomination over Mitt Romney because the former has nicer hair. I kid you not.
The media’s infatuation with the candidacy of non-candidates would be alright if they dedicated sufficient time to reporting on the actual candidates. This obviously isn't the case and the chances of a sudden change of heart by the talking heads is unlikely. What has been a slow decline from honest political journalism to reporting for the sake of entertainment is almost complete. It started when news began covering the horserace instead of the candidates and issues themselves. Now, even the horserace has fallen to the wayside as MSM is so concerned with the contenders still in the stable that it has become difficult to find substantive reporting on the actual nomination race.
It is no stretch to claim that the media has underreported some contenders while overemphasizing others. That being said, the deficiency of coverage following Paul’s close second in Ames and the dearth of Bachmann-Perry-Next-Hyped-Candidate stories is nothing new. However, with political dissatisfaction at an all time high, as well as new reports showing a growing disdain for the Tea Party, nominating the best GOP candidate will be difficult, and this lackluster reporting is less acceptable than ever before.
Guessing who will or won't run isn't doing anything to help inform citizens or pit the most competative presidential hopeful against Obama. Without honest, thorough reporting focused on the current candidates and real issues, Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot before the real race even begins. By allowing this kind of journalism to continue, both politicians and voters are encouraging the media to further spiral into sensationalized reporting, popular interest stories, and attention grabbing headlines while ignoring its real job as a balanced, informative source for the public.