Some story ideas for campaign correspondents

CBS reporter Chip Reid is “embedded” with John Edwards’ campaign and posted this on the CBS blog:

I’m a bit unhappy with John Edwards. I’ve been covering his campaign for 10 days and he hasn’t made a lot of news. Let’s face it – a lot of what political reporters report on is mistakes. The campaign trail is one long minefield, covered with Iowa cow pies, and when they step in one – we leap.

I’ve done very little leaping – and I blame Edwards. While other candidates misspeak, over-speak, and double-speak, Edwards (at least in these 10 days) has made so few mistakes that I end up being transported — newsless — from town to town like a sack of Iowa corn .

He has a remarkable ability to stay on message. Not just in “the speech,” but even in Q and A. Nothing throws him off. He turns nearly every question into another opportunity to repeat his central theme. Global warming? We need to fight big oil. Health care? Fight the big drug and insurance companies. Iowa farmers’ problems? Blame those monster farm conglomerates. And the Iowa populists eat it up. We’ll see how well it works in other states.

He’s even disciplined in his daily routine. While most reporters use the campaign trail as an excuse to over-eat and abandon their exercise routines, Edwards squeezes in a run EVERY DAY, rain, sleet, or shine.

Come on John – relax. Step in an Iowa cow pie and let me do my job.

Like my grandmother used to say, many a truth is told in a joke. Reid is half-joking, but the truth is that journalists would much prefer to cover a gaffe than report on a non-eventful day on the stump.

Here’s an idea: how about coming up with story ideas on your own, rather than waiting for the candidates to slip up?

Reid could tell us what the crowds are like at the Edwards events he covers. How many people are showing up? What’s the average age? More women or men? Are the people at these rallies mostly committed Edwards supporters, or are there significant numbers of undecided voters?

Alternatively, he could spend some time analyzing an issue Edwards brings up in his stump speech. How does that issue relate to the lives of Iowans in town X where Edwards is speaking? How does Edwards’ approach to that issue compare to what other candidates propose?

On any given day, Daily Kos users post numerous substantive diaries about the various presidential candidates. Some are about candidates’ stand on important issues, and some are about campaign strategy.

While Reid complains that Edwards isn’t giving him anything to write about, the Edwards Evening News Roundups are packed with information every day.

If these citizen journalists can come up with something interesting to write about, why is a CBS reporter sitting around waiting for a candidate to make a mistake?

“Gotcha” journalism does not serve voters well. Reporters following the campaigns need to figure out a better way to do their jobs.

  • You are dead on with this DMD

    How can he call himself “a reporter”.  He’s been watching way to much “Hardball” and the Sunday Shows.  That’s the shows where these people sit around and speculate about what will happen and laugh at all the mistakes that did happen and how many fights were started.  It has nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with plain old gossip. Eleanor Roosevelt said that “Great minds talk about ideas; average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about other people.”  Our politics have gotten so very small.

    And I would vehemently defend Edwards’ “remarkable ability to stay on message” and returning to his central theme in each answer he gives.  You know why Iowans “eat it up” Chip?  I was at three of these events and I know why I and they eat it up. It’s because his “theme” is about rewarding work over wealth. All the other candidates’ themes are about themselves i.e. how much experience they have.  How their judgment is perfect. How many times they voted the right way.

    But Edwards central theme is about us , not about him. He has a crystal clear vision of the kind of America he would like to see in 30 years and how we can get there; all of us together.  It’s because of the passion in his voice that you feel in your gut as he speaks.  It’s like going to church and hearing a sermon that has you raring to go out and do something useful. He’s the candidate with a clear and powerful agenda that can be achieved.  It’s not about him.  It’s about us. He’s a champion, not a rock star.

    This “reporter” should be talking to the folks cheering and crying and shouting out “Are you ready to be Wyatt Earp?”

    Skip the major reporting and go to citizens’ journalism.


  • Amen

    What desmoinesdem said!

    What Feral Cat said, too!

    This Reid guy should be embarassed at his low opinion of his own role here–a stenographer waiting for the candidate to slip on the Iowa ice.

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