In Mansfield and Akron, the local news outlets had to be jazzed about the presidential drive-by, and that showed in the coverage, which was full of photo galleries and local feature angles. But the Mansfield News Journal was also strong on more substantive issues. As should be expected, the paper jumped all over the base closing story with advance filings, updating its audience and triggering a lengthy administration response the day before Obama’s visit that the White House was working to renegotiate a new mission for the base. That story contained the engaging nugget that “The C-27Js will be positioned at the base so Obama sees them when Air Force One taxis in…”
The News Journal also did a nice job covering the main event, weaving in some discussion of the Tax Policy Center’s report along with color detail. And the paper followed up later with a report that the commander of the 179th Airlift Wing at the base, Col. Gary McCue, met the president, who praised the communities’ efforts to preserve the base.
By contrast, the Akron Beacon Journal’s coverage leaned too far toward softer stuff. The paper put two reporters on the president’s speech, and the resulting account did lead with a couple paragraphs about Obama’s message framing himself as a defender of the middle class. And farther down, the article does note some details about his argument on taxes. But the Tax Policy Center report, from which some of those details were drawn, is never mentioned. (The Guard base is never mentioned either, though to be fair that’s less of a local issue in Akron.) Instead, most of the article is devoted to the color and scene of the rally, including attendee interviews.
The rest of the Beacon Journal’s coverage—an article focused on the lucky residents who were invited to meet Obama, and another about the local politicians and supporters who greeted him on arrival—only tipped the balance further.
Of course it makes sense for local outlets to cover the pageantry of a presidential visit—that’s part of the story, and plenty of readers want to know what it was like to “be there.” But a presidential visit, when everybody’s attention is turned to politics, is also an ideal time to dig deeper on substance, especially when there’s news afoot, and it was disappointing that the Beacon Journal didn’t do more of that. But Obama and Romney will be back here many more times, in a race that gives every indication of remaining close—in the weeks to come, there will be other opportunities to dig in.