Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Media & Politics 101

During the middle 1990s, I taught a class at IUPUI called Media & Politics. It was a class that discussed how the media operates and how politicians and elected officials can best utilize the media in their campaigns and while in office.

On one of the days we focused on negative stories about elected officials, and how those stories can be handled. It is essential that the elected official not turn off access to reporters when bad stories are printed but instead continue to work to build a positive relationship with the media. There is no doubt that reporters (who vote 80% or more Democrat) do have a liberal bias that often affects their reporting, although that bias is many times subconscious in what stories are covered and how they are presented. However, there are numerous other biases, such as a bias for stories that have action or present conflict, which also affect reporting and have more of an influence than the liberal bias.

Elected officials need to treat reporters as the professionals they are, and respect and understand the role they play in the political process. They need to understand their deadlines and cooperate with them by providing the information they need to complete their stories, even when those stories may not turn out to be favorable. An elected official who is open and candid with reporters is going to earn respect with the media and receive improved coverage.

Having outlined my approach to handling the media, I was disappointed to read Matthew Tully's column this morning. In the column, Tully discusses a conversation with Mayor Ballard in which the Mayor indicates that he is going to talk less openly to reporters, and instead follow the scripted comments of his advisors. That's a bad strategy from a media standpoint (see above), but it's also a bad strategy because it is those advisors whose bad advice got him in trouble in the first place.

I said it before, and I'll say it again. The Mayor needs to clean house and give many of his advisors the boot. He needs to surround himself with advisors who will make him the No. 1 priority and who understand his strengths (see for example "sincerity" noted in Tully's column) and fashion a political and media strategy to match those strengths. Closing the door to unscripted media coverage is not effective media strategy. It is a prescription for even worse media coverage.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of media and politics I found a stroy that might interest you:


Anonymous said...

This is scary. I can't believe he's doing this.

What the hell is he hiding?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon, I saw that. I still think she is short of money though.

Melyssa, I think it's more bad advice from the Mayor's advisors. Those advisors are probably tired of being called out for things like the sweatheart Venture Real Estate deal and decided the way to better handle things is to try to keep the information from coming out at all.

I've always said that when government starts concealing what it's doing from the public, then it's doing things that shouldn't be done.