What’s News Cut up to?

  • I’ll be live blogging tonight’s debate between Barack Obama and John McCain from Nashville. Tom Brokaw is moderating so perhaps we’ll see a moderator this election season who doesn’t miss obvious follow-up questions. The debate starts at 8 p.m. so I’ll hope you join me here and take part in the discussion.
  • I’m working on a couple of projects relating to the economy. I’m planning on traveling to several college campuses in the state to talk about how students are feeling about their future. If you’d like me to hit your campus — and you’d like to pull a few folks together to chat — please use the contact form.
  • Similarly, I’m looking for people who are within a few years of retiring to tell me their stories of approaching the great unknown. If you are one, contact me.
  • I’m hoping to put together a new News Cut feature — “The Coffee Shop Chronicles” — by setting up shop at coffee shops around the state and playing “Give me 6 questions.” I believe I can find something interesting about you that others will find interesting (and newsworthy) in 6 questions or fewer. If I fail, I give you a quarter.
  • A guy can only take so much politics. I’m looking for information on the people you know who are doing interesting things. Sure, we’re not talking front-page stuff, by what does it have to be?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    • Matt
    • Bob Collins

      Ridiculous. The two campaigns obviously are doing as much as they can to keep the voters from being truly informed.

      It’s a bad sign for the future when those of us on Main St. are most worried about the future, and most politicians are most worried about a tough question.

    • MR

      That’s been obvious for a while.

      As a journalist Bob, how do you come up with your plan for covering a campaign? It seems like there’s much more of a focus on the horserace, the “he said/she said” stories, and what the candidates did on any particular day. Has this strategy changed in the time that you’ve been working as a journalist?

      Why is that the coverage strategy rather than saying “this week, we look at issue x, next week issue y?”

      It’s to a campaign’s advantage to try to say as little as possible, that way more people can project what they want to see onto a candidate. That means that someone has to try to push the candidates to answer uncomfortable questions, and that responsibility has fallen on the media.

    • Matt

      Whoa: Ben Smith is reporting that Tom Brokaw wasn’t part of this agreement, so the campaigns expect he will ask follow-ups. I stand corrected. Now I’m looking forward to tonight.

    • bsimon

      I see Matt has already pointed out the limitations of the format, with regards to the moderator actually following up to the candidates’ statements. Ms Ifill was restricted by the same ‘rule’ last week; perhaps Mr Brokaw will slightly bend the rule, as she did.

    • Bob Collins

      MR, you’ll note that I haven’t run the political unit since the mid-90s. But one way we did get out of the horserace coverage was to dedicate one week to a SINGLE issue from primary week right to the convention. Talk shows and political reporters would dig into the issue and we’d have a dialog.

      That’s not been done since. I don’t think it’s been done anywhere in America since.

      At the time, I recall a prominent political wag at the U (no longer there) say “it’s revolutionized the way political coverage is done). It was a short revolution.

    • MR

      Thanks for the response. Do you think that sort of a plan would still be effective in this election cycle, with the changes in technology and the quantity of coverage available?

      Do you think that the way candidates approach interactions with the media has changed since the mid-90s? If so, how?

      I really like it as an idea, but I don’t know the ins and outs of media and news.

    • Bob Collins

      MR, I think there’s always a demand for substantive issue-oriented coverage. The changes in technology and quantity of coverage available has not — as far as I can tell — led to more substantive coverage of politics.

      As far as how candidates approach interactions with the media, no, I don’t think they’ve changed. I think they’re just as interested in setting the agenda for news coverage as they were back then.

      But keep in mind, covering an issue in a campaign isn’t synonymous with just saying what the candidate thinks about an issue. It’s explaining the complexities of the issue and pointing out why the simplistic answers (which are created specifically targeted to horse-race coverage) aren’t worth much.

      Ideally, it would create a demand that candidates actually answer questions.

      The entire debate structure in place needs to be blown up, too, of course.

    • JohnnyZoom

      >>those of us on Main St. are most worried about the future, and most politicians are most worried about a tough question.

      Irony is, they’re really worrying about the same thing, but in vastly different terms: Main St. wants to address the worry, and [most] politicians want the worry to go away.