Media imbalance

Passport has a post up discussing Obama’s media advantage over McCain. The fact that McCain’s Latin America tour got significantly less coverage and hype than Obama’s “world tour” has is given special prominence. McCain’s tour of Latin America seemed to have been overshadowed by the contemporaneous Operation Jaque, which liberated several American hostages along with former Columbian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt from the FARC. This only compounded the fact that McCain picked a region that has been out of sight and mind in the American media and popular geopolitics for the last several years, save for the periodic mutterings of Hugo Chavez. Most Americans do not see Latin America in terms of foreign policy the way they ought to; it comes to mind as a domestic issue vis-a-vis immigration and occasionally trade issues. It is not seen as being a piece of the geopolitical game board, and McCain’s trip did not offer a major departure from that. It was framed in terms of trade, immigration and, maybe, narco-terrorism; it was not exceptionally well played by his campaign. It seemed more of a pleasure trip than a policy one. It was almost Giulianiesque in its poor execution. In contrast, Obama’s “world tour” is taking him to areas that are seen as being critical to US national security (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel), as well as to Europe which has figured prominently into Democratic foreign policy platforms (“reaching out to allies,” etc.). This is to say nothing of the fact that there is a great deal of enthusiasm for Obama in Europe, which itself has generated many news stories, which cannot be said of Senator McCain either there or in Latin America.

There does seem to be a built-in bias in terms of the volume of Obama’s coverage relative to McCain. I think this comes from the fact that Obama’s very candidacy is considered to be “newsworthy,” as the first African-American presidential nominee from either party. In racially obsessed America, this offers a platform from which a number of articles and news segments can be produced. More significantly, I think, Obama is a relative unknown compared to McCain which means that more information about him is coming out now, as well as are questions about him. The media is certainly more interested in Barack Obama than it is in John McCain. Perhaps it is a matter of whose narrative is more interesting or less stale. Despite the built-in bias, John McCain hasn’t given them many reasons to be interested in him.

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