If a debate happens and nobody pays any attention, does it really happen?
A full two months before the November election, California’s incumbent governor, Jerry Brown, and his challenger, Neel Kashkari, squared off for their one and only debate. It was a testy affair, and Kashkari desperately tried to create some heat for his campaign.
Yeah. About that.
Here are some screen grabs from some of California’s major newspapers. See if you can spot the theme:
Let’s start with the best home-page coverage, the San Jose Mercury News:
So far, so good. Now something a little less prominent but still heavily featured, the Sacramento Bee:
Okay. Still pretty good. There’s a picture there, and it seems to be the main article. Now, SFGate (the free version of the San Francisco Chronicle):
Uh, oh. According the Chronicle editors, you the reader are likely to care more about the price of a 49ers game, real estate in Berkeley, or how to successfully quit your job than you are the debate. Well, San Francisco is a hot bed of liberalism. Maybe it’s an aberration.
There’s no mention of the debate at all here. None at all.
A monster-sized boulder is apparently more important than the gubernatorial debate to the readers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Finally, from the Los Angeles Times:
Yeah. No debate here either. (Although maybe the story about the grocery bags is a stealth attempt to get people to read about the debate. Brown did say during the debate that he would probably sign the bill banning plastic grocery bags in California.)
So, summing up. There was a debate last night between the two people running for governor in California. It’s the only debate that will happen between these two people. Only half of the state’s major newspapers think it was worth your attention. (Or, more accurately, think you care enough about it to feature it on their home-page.)
Admittedly, I haven’t seen the print editions of these newspapers. Maybe the debate is above the fold there. Most people don’t get their news from print editions any more, though.
P.S. If you are wondering where all the adds are (the LA Times site has a lot of white space, for example), they aren’t being displayed because I use Ad Block Plus on my Chrome browser.
What: The Election returns brought live to you with the commentary of Pacific’s own Political Science Professors.
Where: The Lair
When: 3 p.m.- 11 p.m. Nov. 4, 2008
will be held in the Lair at the DeRosa Center and is open to the
public.We will begin with a series of student presentations (from
the Campaigns and Elections class) on the state of the election; i.e.,
what states and contests to watch and why. The TVs will be tuned to
different stations to watch the returns, and a computer will be hooked
up to a projector to watch the California returns. There will be
contests for the students (Predict the Electoral Vote!, Who Will
Control Congress by How Much?), and food will be provided. After we
have a good idea of the outcome, we’ll have some post-election
commentary by at least two faculty members.
4:00 – 4:30 PM Presentations
4:30 – 9:00 PM Watch returns
9:00 – 9:30 PM Wrap-up Commentary
The event is being sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of
the Pacific, the Office of Student Life, and the Department of Political Science.
More on Andal’s “tracker” and tracking
Brian E. Klunk, Chair of the Political Science Department at University of the Pacific, expands on the ethics of tracking, the subject of Sunday’s column.
I’m usually a little better when I think for a couple minutes. Let me give you a more coherent summary of my reactions.
1. In principle trackers are a good thing. They make it more difficult for candidates to pander inconsistently or to narrowcast to a particular constituency, saying one thing here and another thing there. That said, the practice, which goes back at least to the ’96 campaign, probably leads candidates to be more cautious about ever straying from their canned talking points. It’s not a good thing to make smart people act like they are stupid. One of the attractive things, for example, about Patrick Johnston (who I have to disclose is teaching for my department this year) was his ability to speak in an informed, thoughtful, and expansive way in public about, say, books he had read. If a politician knows that he or she is being taped, he or she is much more likely to stick to a bland and fairly contentless script. So, ironically what starts out apparently to make candidates more transparent may lead to them being more cloaked.
2. There are opportunities for abuse.
a. I don’t have a problem with not identifying the tracker as long as we know who is paying him or her. The basic standard of campaign ethics is that we should be able to hold the appropriate party responsible for what happens in a campaign and that’s really the campaign, party, group that hired the tracker more than the tracker himself or herself. But as you note, it is sometimes not possible to find out who is paying a particular tracker.
b. There is no problem with a tracker attending public events. A school board meeting is open. Other events are not open to general publics and there would be a problem with a tracker misrepresenting who he or she is or claiming to have an invitation when he or she doesn’t.
c. A “neutral” tracker is generally not problematic, but you have to think that there are tracker/confederate combos out there trying to provoke reactions from candidates so they can be captured on video and sent viral. That becomes something like entrapment
3. Also as noted, the tracker may be “self-employed.” Everybody has access to the technology, Youtube, Grudge, Daily Kos, Matt Yglesias, etc. The ethical onus may shift to the bloggers who are often/usually the transmission medium for this stuff.
4. Candidates obviously forfeit some expectations of privacy when they decide to run for office, but they don’t give up all privacy. There is no expectation of privacy at most campaign events, but where we assume the candidate is in a zone of privacy seems unclear.
5. There are larger issues about the de-professionalization of the media. By its nature, a profession imposes ethical limitations on those practicing the profession. The point is to lead professionals to practice in a way that promotes a public good. Many professions can do this by limiting entry to the profession, but it is becoming harder to deny access to “the media”. If anybody can be a citizen journalist with a video camera and a fast internet connection, you lose that.
Th There’s something creepy about tracking. But it has a valid use. For instance, Dean Andal was scheduled to meet last week with both the Minutemen, the self-appointed border guards and immigration restrictionists, and the Council for the Spanish Speaking.
The very thought of this schedule is grounds for suspicion that a candidate is going to bloviate one thing to the first group and another to the second. To the Minutemen: Tortilla Curtain. To the Concilio: open borders and a pathway to naturalization. Alas, Andal cancalled his appearance with the Minutemen. But they did write this:
“We thank Dean for his support and his zero tolerance against Sanctuary Cities and Illegal Invasion.”
Sounds like Andal’s tracker might have filmed half a “gotcha” video.
Professor Brian Klunk was quoted in a recent column on trackers, those campaign workers who follow the opposing candidate around trying to catch some embarrassing or incriminating moment on video. Former U.S. senator George Allen (R. VA) might be on the verge of being elected president today if not for the tracker who caught the former senator using the racially dubious term “macaca” during the 2006 campaign.
Professor Klunk is miffed that the column didn’t use his more profound comments and promises to post on those soon. He is, however, glad the author spelled his name correctly
Television stations from San Francisco to Topeka, KS to Knoxville, TN have put the spotlight on the exciting education available for political science students at University of the Pacific. A film crew recently came to Professor Nate Monroe’s Legislative Politics class to catch his students “playing” Fantasy Congress, a game in which students draft members of the U.S. legislative branch and gain points depending on their accomplishments. This is the kind of active learning approach that is the hallmark of the political science program. Political Science majors Dana Simas and Maia Maszara are stars talking about how the class is helping them make connections between classroom learning, their great internships (Dana is in the State Attorney General’s Office and Maia is working in the Governor’s Office), and their career plans. If you want to see the video you can find it here.