Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Do not trust AP as real-life Early Edition

Huffington Post posted a story today reporting that the Associated Press released misleading information suggesting that former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Clinton’s first term Secretary of State Warren Christopher will be major players in President-elect Barack Obama’s transition into power.

Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Spokesperson Stephanie Cutter clarified Nunn and Christopher’s roles, stating that Nunn will serve as an informal advisor on defense and Christopher will not be used at all.

I do not know why newspapers attempt to predict the team before its formally announced. I can only imagine that this guessing game is an attempt to prove how well government beat writers "know" their stuff. It’s kind of that whole situation where a friend thinks they know you so well enough that they claim they know what you’re really thinking, even if it’s completely different from your actual feelings or thoughts.

The attempt by beat writers to boost their egos really just hurts the press in the end. People lose trust in reporting. Sure, you’ve covered government for X amount of years and you might have contacts that have a slight idea of who will be in that team, but why not get a direct quote involved in the transition? None? Sit tight. When they’re ready to announce who’s on the team, they will. Guesstimating the transition team is just a waste of time. Remember how much print space and coverage was dedicated to prediciting who was going to be McCain and Obama’s running mates in this year’s election? How many of those guessed correctly that there would be a McCain/Palin ticket? Zero.

Not only is readership misled by guesses, but the press is not even doing their job (see Ashley's most recent blog entry). We’re not gamblers or psychics. Journalism is about reporting factual, newsworthy content. It’s about telling stories and enlightening the public. If all the manpower put towards coverage on making these guesses or Obama’s new puppy or Mrs. McCain’s possible love affair was put towards things that actually matter, maybe the press would be able to cover things in less-publicized corners of communities or important topics not considered to be "mainstream."

UPDATE/SIDENOTE: Has anyone seen how much 2012 talk is going on (Palin? Huckabee? Jindal?)? Seriously. And we thought presidential campaign coverage was over.. fat chance; It's never over.


Catherine said...

Thoughtful post. This is one of my biggest pet peeves too and one of the reasons I can't watch much cable news. It's just another way to fill column space and/or air time. I understand the questions about cabinets and staff are relevant, but how informative do these articles ever end up being? Maybe we should just keep speculation to sidebars that make it clear no authority actually contributed. I agree with you. Hold off until you get some quotes. Hold off until the story is stronger.

Sometimes when I am beating myself up over having no good story ideas, I just surf the web and see plenty others struggle right along with me. Although worse (or maybe better for them?) they actually follow through on stories you or I might quickly dismiss. OH MEDIA.

Catherine said...

P.S.- Absolutely loved Early Edition. Can they please rerun that show? I had the biggest inappropriate crush on Kyle Chandler when I was eight.