“People who write about Alvin Greene are going to get clicked on,” [Democratic operative Wyeth] Ruthven explains to Politico’s Jonathan Martin in Martin’s piece about Alvin Greene (currently the third most-read story over the past 24 hours on Politico). In it, Martin ponders why Greene, South Carolina’s Democratic nominee for Senate, “a political hopeful with so little hope of victory,” has attracted “so much media attention.”
From the outset, the alchemy of the Greene story has proved irresistible to the national press. At its core is a mysterious, quotable protagonist in a whodunit featuring alleged dirty tricks, against the backdrop of race and region — the equivalent of catnip for reporters.
In this case, happily, what’s “catnip for reporters” is also appealing, Martin writes, to “politically inclined” readers.
As much as anything else, the appeal of the Greene saga illustrates how the media ecosystem now works. His improbable candidacy began as something of a cult sensation among reporters and political junkies on Twitter and other social media.
At first, the possibility of mischief was alluring, but then the story took on a life of its own as details about Greene, including a pending criminal charge of obscenity, dribbled out. The story then quickly migrated to cable-TV and print-media outlets that discovered their politically inclined readers had a considerable appetite for the tale.
And what a feast these hungry readers have had.
Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, writes The Upshot’s Michael Calderone, “crunched the numbers and provided The Upshot with its internal analysis of media coverage across 52 major news outlets, from South Carolina’s primary day through July 18” (no internal analysis for the rest of us?) and found that Alvin Greene has been “the lead newsmaker in 2010 coverage since coming out of nowhere to win the June 8 Senate primary.” (Not so much before June 8; not even at South Carolina media outlets).
This, Calderone writes, when “thirty-seven governorships are up for grabs in November, along with all 435 seats in the House and 37 in the Senate,” “only a handful of the more hotly contested races will get significant national media coverage from now through Election Day,” and Greene is “a candidate who cable pundits and political analysts expect to lose big in November.”
Pew’s associate director, Mark Jurkowitz, described Greene as a “political and personal curiosity” and expects that attention will shift in the fall given that other House and Senate races could determine the balance of power in Washington.
As for the summer, he said: “This is the time for the Greene story.”
Just political reporters having some (non-Biden-provided) summer fun? They’ll focus more on those potentially power-shifting races sometime after Labor Day?
Calderone quotes Corey Hutchins, a political reporter with the (Columbia, SC) alt weekly Free Times, who “wrote the only pre-primary profile of Greene:”
It’s become a competition. I think it’s worldwide — who can get the most bizarre [Greene] quote that will land your story on the cable channel that night.
This mentality, generally, doesn’t strike me as seasonal. Or even Greene-specific.Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.