Campaign Coverage Without the Candidates

Lundstrom, Marie
December 2003
Nieman Reports;Winter2003, Vol. 57 Issue 4, p53
The article assesses the anger of voters in California regarding the 2003 governor recall elections. One mother held Governor Gray Davis directly responsible for her daughter's special education class being cut. A community college student blamed him for her rising fees and inability to enroll in a chemistry class. If recall backers were making Davis out to be the villain, to opponents of the recall, he remained almost an abstraction. In rural areas and in cities, even diehard recall opponents were loath to say they actually supported the governor. Instead they expressed philosophical objections to the recall, its expense, the power grab and the futility of leadership change. Women's rights activists, supportive of Davis, struggled to be heard over the fiscal alarm of voters. Where there is geographic basis by journalists, stereotypes abound. In rural areas, for instance, the regulars at the local steakhouse suddenly become the voice for the whole community or even state. People in California had a lot to say about the election and their voices added immeasurably to the overall coverage. Because in the end, it was not the political experts or talking heads who decided the fate of Davis.


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