With the popularity of the internet, a voter has many outlets for learning information about the candidates. Looking at the national television networks, that doesn’t seem to be a bad thing. NBC, a networ that at one time was (at least in my opinion) always showing election coverage, seems to be forgoing providing any information in a quest for higher ratings. I didn’t realize how much this was true until I decided that I would watch every national news piece in a twenty-four hour period, searching for election information.
On a half-hour newscast of Nightly News with Brian Williams, a package about the candidates’ economic policies lasted two minutes. The other twenty-eight minutes were split between newsworthy stories and commercials, the latter winning the time race. Nightly News is on at 6:30 in the evening, a time when many adults are getting home from work and preparing for dinner. With this the only information available on NBC at 6:30, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratings were dismal and viewers switched to other news outlets for election coverage.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if the story presented during the two minute package was uninformative. Working around the Lehman bankruptcy, sound bites from each candidate told his take on the day’s economic situation. For someone involved in the stock market, this would be very helpful. Then, the reporter gave a quick overview of each candidate’s policy for fixing the country’s economic problems. The package had a good way of tying together a current news story with the economic strategies.
Both candidates were given equal face time and at the end, there was a split screen of McCain and Obama speaking. I thought this was interesting because it seemed to say that even though both candidates agree something needs to be done about the financial state of the country, there are different proposed ways to fix it. It was as if NBC was reminding viewers there are two sides and we need to pick one: Barack Obama, positioned on the left side of the screen and John McCain, positioned on the right. Left and right: was it a coincidence? I’d like to think the creator of the package wasn’t that obvious but I also doubt it wasn’t slightly intentional.
The next national NBC program to give any information about the election was the Today Show at seven in the morning. That means twelve hours passed without any political coverage. With the election less than fifty days away, stations should be doing everything possible to help inform the voters. But, one also has to question if stations like NBC are refraining from all-election all-the-time coverage because there could be a viewer burnout. How does a station find the line that says they’ve given too much time to the election? As voting inches closer, we’ll be able to see if NBC and its competitors are ignoring the line to make sure everyone is informed about who he or she wants to put into the highest office in the country.