Tuesday, October 21, 2008

NBC News.com: Finally Some Third Party Flavor

by Stine Eckert

For this blog I concentrate on NBC News.com's videos in the Latest Program, Web Only, and Politics sections as well as on the First Read blog, which is part of MSNBC.

Surprise, Surprise (This Time a Real One) – 16 minute Ralph Nader Interview
After Senator Joe Biden’s suprising visit in Athens, OH – where this blog project is located – sparked lots of local and some national reports, one of my wishes for election coverage was somewhat fulfilled. (Of course one can always wish for more consistency.)

But on Tuesday, October 20, 2008 I was really stunned to find a 16 minute interview with independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader in NBC’s Nightly News web only section. Even better it was not just some interview but NBC's Ron Allen’s questioning starts off pointedly: “You can’t win the presidency, why do you keep doing this?” Allen follows his rather aggressive path throughout the whole interview on corporate politics, tipping the election in 2000, his chances to win any state, on mass media treatment of him, election results, and what it takes to convince him to drop out of the current race. I kept thinking what axe does Allen have to grind with the old man? Seldomly, I have seen an interview in which the attitude of the journalist is so palpable. But see for yourself.

Here’s the 16 minute expanded interview (which is really worth watching):

For a short time brush up on Nader, here’s a typical 2 minutes television clip:

By the way, did you know that Ralph Nader’s native language is Arabic, his parents came from Lebannon, he graduated from Princeton University and Havard Law School and served in the U.S. army? For some more Ralph Nader 101 (a la Wikipedia)please click here. By the way his running mate Matt Gonzalez's biography is presented in English and Spanish on their campaign’s website.

How about a follow up featuring other third party candidates and a background piece on the obstacles they face in general in U.S. politics and elections?

Suprise No. 2 -- Colin Powell endorses Obama and NBC Presents a Great Soundbite
That’s the stuff I want to see on the Internet, a great extended interview with Colin Powell. For seven minutes he shares in a very intelligent and articulate way his fresh thoughts on how he weighed Sens. McCain and Obama against each other as well as the development of the Republican party to come to the conclusion that Obama is the best man for the U.S. Don’t miss out on this well spoken endorsement by Republican former Secretary of State General Colin Powell.

Last, but not least...
...to make this surprise party complete, a piece about the Republican side, an October 16, 2008 portrait of Todd Palin and his tentacles in Alaskan politics beyond just serving tea as a spouse of a state official.

When will we hear more about Jill Biden?

Back to Business as Usual - Last Debate Coverage
An incredible flurry of at least two dozen videos surrounded THE debate on NBC.com. In addition to a clip featuring the whole 90 minutes of the event, NBC broke the debate into topical sections such as abortion, “the real McCain”, and of course Joe, the (non)-plumber. Also among the plenty, an eleven minute interview with John McCain’s senior campaign advisor Brian Jones...

…and a five minute clip with six demographically-correct guinea pigs probed for their feelings and thoughts after the debate. However, NBC’s Ann Curry cuts a little bit of a teacher figure hovering awkwardly above them on a high chair in an artificial living room stage set. She first roll calls them, asks for hands on such questions as: “Who thinks John McCain was stronger on the economy tonight?” and then follows up by calling individual names. By the way, all six pupils swiftly raised their hands when Ann Curry asked if they believe that some people might not vote for McCain because of Sarah Palin.

Mingling with the Youth - Sequel IV
Sure enough Luke Russert mingled again with the future of the country to collect their ten cents in another pop journalism video with jolly background tunes that give such a bright feeling to the debates that one is prone to forget about the dark drowning economy for about four minutes.

His final piece of college visits led him to Hofstra University, the epicenter of U.S. politics on Wednesday night (October 15, 2008). The youth were already sick of Joe the (non) plumber and the extended time spent on campaign evaluation. One woman who previously had favored Obama switched to McCain because of the Republican's fancy for nuclear energy, a conservatively socialized woman was converted to Obama’s side because of his health care approach, a third woman was still “on edge”.

While this is the logical conclusion of his series of university visits during debates, it's probably among the weaker reports I've seen because it doesn't offer anything new.

The Good Stuff - A Lawsuit and Being "Other"
At the sidelines of the election frenzy the lawsuit of the Ohio Republicans has been crushed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here’s a neat wrap up by NBC’s justice correspondent Pete Williams who puts law language into understandable talk.

An almost four minute piece told from a first person perspective shows an interesting approach to a topic that affects millions of U.S. Americans--being of two or more races, being the other. A topic I hadn’t heard about much before was made into a touching piece about the population’s future not only in the USA but worldwide.

And it is complimented by a very useful, informative, and well-designed feature: an interactive map that shows you the population of each state in terms of two or more races. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau which is indicated in a little credit button. More maps of that sort please!

Left Over Criticism
The only complaint that is left for me this week is the absence of Jill Biden and the usual suspects, issues such as science, communication and Internet policy. Plus, an article in the German prestigious political weekly magazine Spiegel hinted at the fact that Sarah Palin is the only one in the major candidate quartet who has not showed her health records yet to the public or journalists. Wouldn’t this be a helpful piece in the otherwise extensive Palin coverage?

Interviews seem to be the strength of mass media online these days at least when it comes to NBC News.com: NBC will air an interview with John McCain and Sarah Palin on Wednesday and Thursday (October 22 and 23, 2008).

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