Sigh. We’ve reached the part of the campaign season (if we hadn’t already, I’ve lost track) where the RNC issuing a press release — or, the “RNC sends out an email attacking Obama,” as was reported on MSNBC just now — is newsworthy (or at least, cable news-worthy.)
And then, you know, MSNBC does the equivalent of forwarding that RNC email to its hundreds of thousands of viewers (“The Republican National Committee is trying to attack Barack Obama today by using foreign dictators including North Korea’s Kim Jong-il. The RNC noted a newspaper in Japan sympathetic to North Korea’s government has now praised Obama’s pledge to meet with Kim…”) And not without first attaching its own unenlightening two cents to the original email — that is, hosting a segment with one “Democratic strategist” and one “Republican strategist” pondering “Will Attacks Work?” in which “Republican strategist” calls the RNC “wise to make reporters aware of what’s being said by people around the world.”
There are going to be so many of these emails going forward from the RNC, the DNC, and I shudder to think who else. A request for the press: If you’re going to talk about them, could you do more than talk about their existence, their value as an attack angle, their likely political impact? Could you also consider (preferably first and off-air) how your talking about their existence impacts that impact (and also the impact your decision to cover or not might have on other stories of the day: ask yourselves, as an example from today’s MSNBC coverage, can viewers afford the resulting pregnant pause in our otherwise relentless coverage of the Gloucester “Pregnancy Pact”)? And, would it be too much to ask you to touch on any distortions or exaggerations or missing details they may contain?
(Related nit-pick: As my colleague observed, MSNBC’s David Shuster described Daniel Ortega, another of the “bad guys” the RNC is “tying to” Obama, as “Nicaragua’s Sandinista rebel leader.” He’s also the president. But maybe that bit didn’t make it into the RNC email.)
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.