American media and politics – what reporters get wrong and how money is involved
By Lindsey Ribeck: 11/10/15
Money, media and politics were on the minds of the students and faculty members who attended Professor Rosemary Armao’s discussion Wednesday in the Standish Room. This was the second of the University at Albany Libraries’ “Campus Conversations in Standish” series, which began last spring.
The purpose of the series is to “showcase faculty research and expertise” and to foster conversations on different topics among members of the UAlbany community, according to the UAlbany Library website.
Armao, who is the director of the UAlbany journalism program and a panelist for WAMC Public Radio, began her presentation titled “The 2016 Election: What Happens When New Money Converges With New Media” by explicitly stating her biases and the flaws she sees in media coverage.
She acknowledged her feminist bias to the 20 or so individuals gathered at the table with her, saying that she is likely to vote for Hillary Clinton because “I would like to see a woman president.”
Armao also believes that the best presidents are professional politicians and the average citizen does not do a good job of reporting in general, especially when it comes to politics.
The problem with the current media, Armao explained, is that political coverage focuses on quirks and personalities.
When media does cover political issues “it is so freaking boring that no one reads it, and if they do struggle through it, they don’t remember it,” she said. “We still don’t have the talent for writing about boring topics in an interesting way.”
Another problem is that presidential candidates have the ability to command the coverage they are receiving. Armao mentioned the role of money in Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. Up until this point all of his interviews have been on the balcony of Trump Tower, almost as an advertisement of himself and what he has attained over the years.
The media needs to step back and focus on the actual politics rather than on the sensationalism, Armao said.
“I think media has the responsibility to say, these are the serious candidates – let us concentrate our coverage on that,” she said.
When it comes to coverage the media does get a lot right, Armao said. She cited an article by The New York Times last month which revealed that more than half the money donated to the 2016 presidential campaigns comes from only 158 families. This allows the wealthy, who are putting exorbitant amounts of money into individual campaigns, to potentially have a large influence on politics.
The journalism director also said that reporters are doing a good job of holding candidates accountable. For example, many Republican nominees claim to not believe in the theory of evolution and so reporters have brought other professional voices to debates this.
This brings up the question of balance.
“Does the media have a duty to be balanced in coverage if one side is clearly correct?” asked attendee Martha Rozett, a professor in the English department. Rozett explained that in class if a student presents an answer to a question that is clearly incorrect, she tells the student that the answer is wrong and doesn’t sugarcoat it.
Armao explained to her audience that even if reputable news sources are not providing the other side, it can be found on the internet, although it may be inaccurate.
According to her, “balanced journalism is a form of unfairness.” In well-established sources of media the other side should be noted, but not necessarily given equal space.