09 September 2011

I can't take it anymore

Sometimes public radio does what I call over covering a story and rather than just bitch to David about it, I wrote to the Ombudsman* and outlined my concerns.  I didn't use any of the bad words that I've been using to the radio recently, so I consider that a win.  (If this siphons off some of my annoyance and David doesn't have to listen to me be irritated, he may consider it a win as well.)

I suspect that this will accomplish nothing but I feel better for having written it.  During the last president election caller after caller to the Diane Rehm show begged the panel on the Friday News Round Up to scale back the discussion of the "horse race"**.  The panelists, every time, said that they had to talk it to death because that's what people are interested in.

The New York Times ran a piece back in 2007 that neat sums up my dismay with horse race coverage:  "The campaign coverage has been sharply at odds with what the public says it wants, the study found, with voters eager to know more about the candidates’ positions on issues and their personal backgrounds, more about lesser-known candidates and more about the debates. 

But the media is even more obsessed this time around with questions of tactics and strategy, despite what the study described as a “generational struggle” in both parties. Horse-race stories accounted for 63 percent of the stories this year compared with what the study said was about 55 percent in 2000 and 2004."

If you are the sort of malcontent that I am  -- or if you are dismayed that there is not enough coverage of 9/11 this week or won't be enough of election -- the Ombudsman (see job description, below) can be reached via the Contact Us button on NPR.org.

Dear Ombudsman,
An effective way to make me no longer care about a subject - or to get angry every time it's raised - is for public radio to over cover it.  When public radio becomes One Thing Considered -- as it has with the 9/11 anniversary --and has story after story on the subject, each one with a more tenuous connection, it just burns out any ability to hear any more about it.

The events of 9/11 were a defining tragedy for this generation and it makes me truly sad that I can't listen to Morning Edition or ATC right now without thinking "Oh good grief, another one?"  and changing the station.  I won't be listening to public radio this weekend because I can't stand to have truly important things turned into noise.

I understand that anniversaries make a convenient hook for stories that might otherwise lack one.  But the hook is overfull.
The same thing will happen during over coverage of the 2012 election.  By the time the 2008 election was over I believe that public radio had spoken to every person living in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.  I grew to hate all of them, let alone the people running for office who I had grown to detest long before through overexposure.  I remember at one point thinking "Another election story?  Another?  Is nothing happening anywhere else in the world?  Sweden maybe?"
Please consider scaling back.  I would appreciate it and I don't think I'm the only one.

*Ombudsman is a Latin term that means "the person corporate has assigned to actually have to listen to the random whining and complaining of the malcontents."  What a great job to have ...

** The horse race is political handicapping and on the FNRU it's usually about the fundraising.


Maureen said...

Oh, THANK YOU!!! I may have to contact the ombudsman myself; "overcoverage" is exactly the term for what all the media I follow have fallen into. It's almost as if they're too lazy to pay attention to anything else, or feel obliged to take their seat on the bandwagon.

Anonymous said...

Of course part of the reason that "horse race" reportage dominates election coverage is that's what the politicians want. Other than a few base energizing positions most candidates have learned that it is far better to be a cipher that the electorate can project their own image of what they want. The more actual positions and policy's that a candidate takes, the more people they piss off. We're seeing this very strongly in the race for the republican nomination. The more people know about the candidates the more that they want "somebody else" to enter the race. --Simon