A common refrain of media critics is that the press too often eschews substance for the most irrelevant aspects of a presidential campaign. But it’s often tough to figure out to what degree the media’s focus on minutiae affects one’s own grasp of the issues. Luckily, Campaign Desk is here to help. Below you’ll find ten questions — five on real issues, and five on what we’ll charitably call less-than-serious ones — that’ll help you figure out what you actually know and what you don’t. You might be surprised. (Answers — and analysis — after the jump.)

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1) In what magazine were the Bush twins recently featured wearing formal gowns?

2) John Kerry wants to increase the minimum wage to what level?

3) Who is Washingtonienne, and what is her real name?

4) By how much do Kerry and Edwards say they will reduce the federal budget deficit?

5) What did Wolf Blitzer need to apologize for shortly after John Kerry’s acceptance speech and subsequent celebration at the Democratic convention?

6) President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative calls for the testing of every child in which grades?

7) Which daughter-of-a-candidate showed up at the Cannes film festival in a see-through black dress?

8) How do Bush and Kerry differ on how to implement the Sept. 11 Commission’s recommendation for the creation of a national intelligence director?

9) Which Hollywood celebrity and Beantown native was considered “ubiquitous” last week in Boston?

10) How many jobs have been gained or lost during Bush’s time in office?

ANSWERS and ANALYSIS:

1) The Bush twins recently appeared in formal gowns in Vogue.

2) Kerry wants to increase the minimum wage to $7.00/hour. It is presently $5.15/hour.

3) Washingtonienne is Jessica Cutler, who was fired from her job on Capitol Hill after it was discovered that she was keeping a blog of her sexual exploits with a highly placed official and various congressional staffers.

4) Kerry and Edwards say they will reduce the federal budget deficit by half.

5) Blitzer apologized after CNN aired audio of convention producer Don Mischer unleashing an angry expletive because too few celebratory balloons were being released from the FleetCenter rafters.

6) President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative calls for the testing of every child in grades three through eight.

7) Alexandra Kerry appeared at Cannes in a see-through black dress.

8) Both candidates are in favor of creating a position of national intelligence director. But while Kerry says he wants to follow the commission’s recommendation and establish the position inside the White House, the Bush administration has stated that it does not want the director within the executive office of the president.

9) The Boston native and celebrity who was “ubiquitous” at the convention was Ben Affleck.

10) Approximately 1.1 million jobs have been lost during Bush’s tenure. That figure takes into account the 1.8 private sector jobs lost and the 700,000 public sector jobs added.


SO, HOW’D YOU DO?

If you got eight or more questions right, congratulations: you’re a pretty savvy media consumer. If you got less than three — well, let’s just say we’re surprised you found your way to Campaign Desk. As for the rest of you: as you may have guessed, the even questions above were the substantive ones — so if you did well on those, don’t worry too much about not knowing the identity of Jessica Cutler. Those of you who knew the odd questions but were clueless on the even ones, however, might want to consider finding a new way to get your news.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.