Sunday, November 4, 2012

60 Minutes Saves My Journalist Dreams

Amanda Walters
@amandawalters on Twitter

Election Day is almost here and all eyes are on the presidential candidates. And the sad part is that I can barely watch the news right now because all of the stories are starting to look the same. 

Every network’s coverage is filled with fancy graphics that look at the newest polling numbers (both national and state-by-state) and the newest soundbite from each candidate from (surprise!) Ohio.

Even a lot of the pieces focused on Ohio voters are starting to all look the same. It’s like I honestly can’t get away from President Obama and Mitt Romney.

When I turn off the news in hopes of getting away from the candidates, the ads start popping up. Now you might think that turning the TV would be the easiest way to solve the problem, but being in the biggest swing state makes it impossible.

I opened up my mailbox this weekend only to find 10 flyers from the Obama campaign for me and my boyfriend reminding us to early vote. (Which we already have)

I was starting to think that the election would become the bane of my existence as a journalist; something you have to be a part of but regret every minute of it. Needless to say, I’ve had it up to here with the presidential race. But 60 Minutes made me believe in journalism again.

Instead of covering the horse-race this week, they decided to do two pieces to remind us of where we are and how we got there.

The first piece was by Steve Kroft looking at Congress and how they got to a place where they only had a 13 percent approval rating, according to a Gallup poll in September.

Much of the distain people have for congress right now is because of many members’ inability to compromise on matters like taxes and the deficit.  5-week vacations to visit their constituents and partisan policies have Congress with little incentive to get things done.

Kroft interviewed two former Senators who both left their seats because of the partisanship. Republican Olympia Snow and Democrat Evan Bayh gave up their seats because they couldn’t deal with Congress’ inability to strike even the simplest compromise.

Both Snow and Bayh left in order to bring awareness to the issue of bi-partisanship. Snow said that she felt that she could do more for the country as a citizen, than as a member of the Senate.

Kroft then interviewed Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. While Kroft tried to talk to them about why there wasn’t any compromise, both McConnell and Reid tried to blame the other party for Congress’ failure.

I thought this piece was interesting because it’s something we’ve lost in all the hysteria about the election – compromise. Pinning two people against each other like we have pushes each side further away from making a deal.

We’ve also forgotten the importance of the congressional races in our coverage. No matter who the President is, they will have to be able to work with Congress.

The other story I found interesting was about how negative campaigns have been since the beginning of our country. We often like to color our past, and our founding fathers with it, as perfect statesman who are above our negative politics of today.
Historian David McCullough compared this year’s campaigning to years past, and his answer might surprise you.  “Well, Jefferson was paying a slander specialist, a journalist, to go after Adams, writing that he was mentally unbalanced. He was a hermaphrodite, all these things.”

The difference, he sees in this campaign, is that there hasn’t been anything remarkable in a campaign that has seen about a billion dollars in ad buys.

“Imagine the quantity of words that are being produced and you think there's anything that's gonna stand the test of time in there? I haven't heard it yet. We should demand more of them.” McCullough said.

Seeing stories that actually made me think about the election and sparked debate in my house, reminded me that covering the election does not mean that you have to do the same exact story that everyone else already has. For all that – I have to thank 60 Minutes. 

No comments: