A Political Reporter's Toolbox

March 2004
Nieman Reports;Spring2004, Vol. 58 Issue 1, p45
This section suggests several campaign coverage strategies, based on the advice of some veteran political journalists in the U.S. According to Phil Trounstine, former political editor for the San Jose Mercury News, there is a difference between being skeptical and being cynical. Part of being skeptical is being skeptical of one's thoughts and biases, and considering other interpretations of the action. It is quite possible, for instance, for a politician to take a position because he really believes it, then receive money from lobbying interests for doing so, and to please his constituents at the same time. That is actually how the political system was designed to work. For Paul Taylor, former reporter for The Washington Post, it is significant to see policy and platform as a frame to understand character. This approach may also be the key to discovering whether a candidate really means something or whether he or she just adopted a position for an electoral purpose or to satisfy a constituency or lobbying interest. As described by Bill Kovach, issue coverage is about the presentation of two voices disagreeing with one another. On the other hand, David Jones of The New York Times believed that it is significant to cover voters, not polls. Polls turn the public into an abstraction, reacting to questions and constructs of the pollster/journalist. However, voters/citizens may have different constructs.


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