I also encountered the Sciolaro family from Leawood, Kansas, at the victory party—they had come to South Carolina to support Rick Perry but had joined up with Gingrich after Perry suspended his campaign. Vicki, 50, rattled off, with pleasure, the numerous times she or other Sciolaros (her husband Chuck, and three children) had been interviewed and photographed this campaign season: “We’ve been in the New York Times, the LA Times [photo], on the front page of the Des Moines Register [photo].” (I wasn’t able to find an inclusion in the New York Times.)
I was not the first to interview the Sciolaros Saturday night, and I noticed I was hardly the last (the reporter-to-supporter ratio was heavy on the former at that point in the night). A cursory Google News search shows the family has been mentioned in coverage by Patch, The American Prospect, The Daily Beast,
Danish Dutch television (and now me!) this week. Vicki said she’d had no problems with her various media exchanges other than that her age and her daughter’s age have each once been misreported (Vicki says she was aged five years).
Sciolaro, who gets her news from Fox (“because it’s conservative”), Drudge and over Twitter (a habit her family picked up from the Perry campaign) had more beefs with the press for its coverage of Perry—“they didn’t give him a chance;” “they talked about 4 candidates when there were 5”—than of Gingrich. While she thought CNN debate moderator John King’s choice of opening question for Thursday night’s debate was “disgraceful,” she thought it was a fair question to ask later in the night.
I next met a woman named Patti, an administrator with an engineering consulting firm who spoke with me freely, but declined to give her last name. She had decided to vote for Gingrich earlier that day because “he can beat Obama.” She prefers to get her political news from Fox because, she says, it’s “fair and balanced.” (Patti was the fourth Republican voter I spoke with yesterday who explained a preference for Fox in terms of the network’s motto.)
When first asked, she characterized the media’s coverage of the South Carolina primary as generally good. But when pressed, she mentioned she had some problems with the reporting: she thought CNN had the right to ask Gingrich about the “open-marriage” story, but believed there were more important things to ask and that the timing of Newt’s second ex-wife’s ABC interview was fishy. She feels the coverage of Romney’s wealth and off-shore bank accounts has unfairly hinted at criminality, when, she said, “he is just being a good business man.”
She also faults the media for bringing in their personal biases and trying to influence the public, and for not scrutinizing Obama with the same aggressiveness applied to the Republican candidates.
Yet far more problematic to Patti—and to nearly everyone I spoke with at the Gingrich event—than the media coverage, has been the negative advertising that has accompanied the campaigns (and originates from them or, more often, from the super PACS supporting but not “coordinating” with them). “It’s just nasty—to the point it makes you disillusioned,” she said. “No one’s life is perfect.”
Actually, I heard a lot of voters in South Carolina say they’re sick of the negative advertising—and I also heard about what they want from their media. More on that later this week.
Correction: The original version of this piece mentioned that the Sciolaro family had been mentioned in coverage by a Danish television station. In fact, the television station was Dutch. The relevant sentence has been corrected. CJR regrets the error.