A week of reports and I’m none the wiser

I’ve been following Simon Mann’s coverage of the US primaries in the Sydney Morning Herald for a week and I’m yet to learn a thing about the primaries. Is it just registered Republicans who are voting or can anyone vote? How many people are voting? Is it likely that those who vote in the primaries will bother voting in the presidential election? And what are the primaries anyway? How many do you have to win to become the presidential candidate? Or is it the total number of votes that count, so doing well in the big states is more important than doing well in the little states? And only today did I get a very brief sentence about what one of the Republican candidates actually stands for. Which is kinda weird because surely they all stand for the same thing, being in the same party, but I guess it’s different in the US and wouldn’t it be great if the Australian journalist assigned to cover this issue for an Australian audience actually fucking explained how it worked?

Today Simon Mann has 708 words in his story – Victorious Romney bites back against attack ads – and the first 581 are about who is winning in the polls. That’s 581 essentially meaningless words on the horse race, before he gets to information about the horses.

And by “information about the horses”, it’s just two sentences, 29 words out of 708, on what one of the five horses stands for:

He promised to cut the national debt and reduce the size of government, while eliminating regulations and repealing Mr Obama’s healthcare reforms. He also pledged to restore military dominance.

There isn’t a single word about how Romney reckons he’s going to cut the national debt. My guess is no journalist has actually asked him. You’d think that would be important, but naaah. There’s not a single word about how many jobs will be lost in Romney’s plan to cut the size of government, or about what areas he’s going to cut. And not a single word about whether the Republicans will have the numbers to axe the reforms and whether enough Republicans will want to axe them, and what it will mean for the general population. And what does “restore military dominance” actually mean? Does he mean nationally? Like using the military to respond to the Occupy protests? Does he mean globally? What country has more military dominance than the US? I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW A SENIOR JOURNALIST THINKS IT ISN’T HIS JOB TO ASK QUESTIONS.

Yesterday’s story – Opponents take aim at Romney firm’s tactics – is 612 words of fuck-all information:

Mitt Romney’s commanding lead in New Hampshire has been pegged back amid stinging attacks on his corporate record, according to latest opinion polls, but the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination is still his to lose.

So, you’d think the story would be about his corporate record, right? With the journalist doing some research into this record? Ha ha, don’t be silly. It’s 315 words about the horse race, then these two sentences:

The pro-Gingrich group known as “Winning Our Future” said it had set aside more than $US3 million to screen its commercial, which was cut from a 30-minute documentary made by a former aide to Mr Romney’s failed 2008 nomination bid. Portraying Bain Capital as a “jobs destroyer” rather than creator, the film depicts its principal as a Wall Street raider whose firm “destroyed the dreams of thousands of Americans”.

And then another 228 words about the horse race. A story that is supposedly about Romney’s corporate record contains just two sentences on what someone with a vested interest thinks of that corporate record, with no attempt whatsoever by Mann to verify if the claims being made by Romney’s opposition are true or not. This is some incredibly lazy reporting from a senior correspondent. If I was SMH editor Amanda Wilson, I’d fly to the US just to personally kick his arse back to Sydney. But that would require looking at the SMH’s stories through the eyes of their paying audience and snowflake hell and all that.

20 responses to “A week of reports and I’m none the wiser

  1. There’s a lot of coverage in all forms of the media, but as you said, there’s nothing overly informative being thrown around. The most intelligent thing I’ve learnt thus far is that Republican horses have obscure names like Mitt and Newt. Every time someone refers to the latter, I can’t help but picture the furry green guy who tried to steal Christmas.

  2. Aargh, that’s so true. If we have to hear about the primaries all the time like we’re an American state (I know, I know), at least we could be told what they are. I’m trying to avoid twitter, but if someone gives me step by step instructions on how to use that #journalismfail hashtag you mentioned the other day maybe I’ll dip a toe in to those murky waters!

  3. I’m still trying to confirm whether you can be registered as a Democrat and Republican, (at the same time), whether you can vote only for the candidates in your registered party. (Primaries and General elections) Or, if you register as an Independent, you can vote for either. If only there was someone in America who could provide basic information on the electoral process. Oh wait.

  4. Part of the problem is that most of the candidates have no real position on anything, just a grab bag of catch phrases. “smaller government, reduce deficit, repeal this and that, national security, lower taxes, etc” The whole process is stage managed to the point that any reporter who is going to ask anything remotely hard is kept well away from the candidate. But even so, some background of what the **** a primary is, and why it matters would be nice.

  5. Perhaps it is time to watch The West Wing (again). Won’t enlighten us on the current candidates, I know, but it will on the process. And the candidates? Wikipedia. But, of course, you are right. All should be explained in the MSM’s news reporting. No mention there of why anything is of any importance.

  6. Go get em NWN. Another beauty, Ta.

  7. It might not be local, but if you’re genuinely interested in what’s going on in US politics, one of the best indepth sources I’ve found is Maddow: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/

    • Thanks for the link. At the moment, I’m deliberately not doing my own research so I can see if I learn anything from the MSM coverage. But I’ll check it out once I get bored of this experiment. Which will be fairly soon.

  8. “Mr Obama”? Really?
    The guy couldn’t use his actual title, you know, president?

    • SMH journos aren’t big on getting honorifics right. Almost all female academics and scientists are called Ms, as opposed to Dr.

      Blake, welcome to the News with Nipples.

      • It’s not just SMH lazy in this case, I don’t think. There has been a big (if relatively subtle) push since Obama got in, from American conservatives, to delegitimise him in people’s minds by calling him ‘Mr. Obama’. It’s really catching on. I’ve seen countless examples of its use by media folk (I’m loathe to call them journalists), and even by fellow politicians. It’s amazing, really, that the same group of people who spent 8 years falling over themselves to make the presidency even more important are now doing their best to tear down not just the guy in it, but the office itself.

        • Conservatives do it here, too, calling the Prime Minister “Julia”. And all MSM headlines call her Gillard, instead of PM.

          • Oh, indeed. I think it’s less ‘shocking’, though, in the local political climate. It’s still bull, but it’s not as drastic a shift nor is it, I think, something that affects the office generally in as big a way. Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but I seem to recall regularly reading headlines talking about Rudd and Howard, instead of “PM”, and I was far more inclined to call Howard “Johnny” than Bush “George/y”. For a country so far up its own arse when it comes to pomp and ceremony, ditching honorifics for the head of state is pretty massive. Still rude, here. Just not as dramatic a shift.

            Of course both probably have their roots in discomfort about women and *brown* people (eww /eyeroll) having titles.

  9. Pingback: WTF is a “primary” anyway? « The Standard

  10. Does Simon Mann still work for Fairfax? I haven’t seen anything with his name on it for a few months.

    I exchanged several emails with Simon Mann over his deliberate misrepresentation of what was happening in the primary race. He told me the editors kept cutting all the interesting stuff and wouldn’t allow more than one sentence mentioning Ron Paul.

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