Sunday, November 4, 2012

Election Coverage SANDYwich

Carolyn Menyes

In the week before a critical presidential election, it's hard to imagine major news outlets focusing on anything else. A lead broadcast story that is something other than the campaign? Inconceivable!

But, that was before Hurricane Sandy.

The lead stories and final story on Tuesday through Friday nights were about Hurricane Sandy and its devastation on Manhattan, Staten Island and New Jersey. On average that type of story -- which ranged from flooding to relief efforts to the lack of gas and public transportation -- lasted for the entire first half of the episode.

The second segment consisted of an election story, focusing on the final few days and the campaign efforts from President Obama and Mitt Romney. There was very little investigation in these stories, just sound clips from various rallies, discussions of travel (emphasis on Ohio, of course) and what the unemployment report meant for President Obama and Romney.

The final part of these episodes focused back on Hurrican Sandy and focused on the human interest stories. New Yorkers helping out their fellow neighbors, climbing up 21 flights of stairs to do so or going from one bustling borough to another to clean up damage. These endings actually were very touching and effective, showing glimmers of hope in a time where things seem dire.

However, these episodes were actually incredibly formulaic. The typical viewer may not have even noticed the repetition, but I watched all four back-to-back, and almost found it humorous. It's like the presidential election is the meat in a delicious NYC deli pastrami sandwich, with Sandy coverage as the bread.

As always, Brian Williams made good use of tying the election to Hurricane Sandy, albeit showcasing how New Jersey Governor Christie doesn't "give a damn" about presidential politics, emphasizing Romney's dodging of FEMA-related questions or the pausing of campaigns and turnover of a Romney campaign event to a storm relief one.

The most interesting (and relevant) package that tied together the election and the hurricane was one that focused on the polling places in affected areas.

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