Both the News and the Free Press complemented their speech coverage with features on the protesters outside Ford Field, many of whom were members of the union, the United Auto Workers, that Romney strongly criticized in his speech. (The MLive story noted there was a “a mobile billboard [circling] the stadium that read ‘Let
DetroitRomney Go Bankrupt,’ a reference to his now-infamous 2008 editorial in the New York Times.”) The Free Press coverage also included a column by Tom Walsh, who argued that Romney overdid it with his critique of unions, while failing to rouse his audience with a countering positive message. Both of the state’s largest newspapers also noted a New York Times op-ed penned by Steven Rattner, who led President Obama’s auto task force, that was published ahead of the speech and challenged the Romney’s previous claims on the bailout. And both provided the full text of Romney’s remarks for readers who wanted a closer look.
On the whole, this was solid coverage that emphasized local angles for a local audience. Still, there were opportunities to do more. Though the speech mostly affirmed views that Romney has articulated before, with the event fixing attention on his platform, this was a chance to explore the implications of his full economic agenda.
A writer with a national audience, Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, showed one way to do that. Klein’s post broke down Romney’s proposals, pulling lengthy quotations from the speech to analyze the impact of his policies. That approach led to some insights about what Romney’s agenda means for Medicare and Social Security—topics that drew at least some coverage in the Michigan press.
But it also led to the separate point that to make his budget add up, Romney will need to effectively cut spending on Medicaid and other safety-net programs like food stamps, housing subsidies, and job training. Whether or not voters share Klein’s political preferences—and the Republicans participating in Michigan’s primary next Tuesday probably don’t—that’s a newsworthy point that went missing in the coverage here. While the local focus in Romney’s Michigan cred, and his auto industry and union views, is understandable, the real-life implications of all his policies deserve scrutiny—not just passing mention—in the state’s media.