If that sounds like not very many commenters, given the apparent outpouring of activity on Facebook, Malicki said she hadn’t heard much response to the KCRG segment either, but she isn’t surprised. She speculated that because the presidential candidates are so often in the state, and so many outrageous claims are made in political advertisements that air during the newscasts, viewers take the political news being reported as mundane.
Though I’d answer “overblown” to The Gazette’s query—and though I hope SourceMedia will take CJR’s past advice to “ignore the bias bullies” to heart—I was surprised to be at least partially persuaded by Carros and Malicki’s explanations about the decision to cover the story. The initial response on Facebook, which caught Carros’s attention, was apparently organic; at least, it started before The Blaze’s post on the episode. And reporting on incidents like the “flag flap” can potentially benefit readers and viewers by providing clarity, context, and some analysis.
Unfortunately, by that standard, SourceMedia’s coverage of the “flag flap” flopped. While the reporting was fairly through, both the article and the news segment come across as instances where a commitment to a “just the facts” approach prevents a news organization from explaining clearly the political subtext—in this case, the fact that some critics of Obama might use the incident to bolster the idea that the president is vaguely “un-American” (and relatedly, that this type of attack has made institutions hyper-sensitive about accusations of insufficient patriotism). A willingness to state some conclusions, or at least speak plainly about political circumstances, might have made the coverage sharper.
Finally, here’s hoping that the next time one of the presidential candidates swings through the state, The Gazette and KCRG find a richer subject to explore in a follow-up—one that can cut through readers’ and viewers’ weariness with politics by drawing connections between the policy debates in Washington and their lives in the Hawkeye State.