The Stories Behind the Stories: October 2012
Political ad spending heats up
Minnesota may not be a battleground state in the Presidential election, but we have our fair share of heavily contested congressional races – not to mention two highly contentious constitutional amendments. In case you haven’t noticed, this means that our airwaves have been filled to the brim with political advertising. In fact, as of October 11 more than $13 million had been spent on more than 11,000 television spots, Minnesota Public Radio reports. This figure will only climb over the next week as candidates make last-ditch efforts to reach voters. By contrast, $28 million has been spent so far in Wisconsin on advertising in the Presidential race alone, in addition to spending on the highly contested congressional races in the state.
While you may be sick of political ads by now, keep in mind that it could be worse – $42 million was spent in the Twin Cities in 2008 as Senator Al Franken and former Senator Norm Coleman waged a high-stakes, high-cost battle for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Athletes weigh in on controversial issues
Throughout the election season, Minnesotans United for All Families has launched online videos to support its efforts to oppose the marriage amendment. The latest video features Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. While celebrities and athletes weigh in on political candidates all the time, we are now seeing local celebrities like Kluwe and Matt Birk weigh in on issues. Birk, a former Viking, released a video encouraging Minnesotans to vote yes on the marriage amendment. Many celebrities and athletes choose to remain silent about highly divisive issues out of fear of offending a large percentage of their fans, but these two athletes feel so passionate about the issue that they have chosen to go public.
To endorse or not to endorse
Newspaper endorsements have always been controversial. This election season the two daily newspapers in the Twin Cities have landed on either side of the debate. Earlier this month, the Pioneer Press announced that instead of endorsing candidates, its editorial board would just discuss key races and ballot initiatives.
The Star Tribune, on the other hand, decided to offer positions on national, state and local candidates as well as the two constitutional amendments. In a column about the decision, editorial page editor Scott Gillespie wrote, “We believe there’s civic value in hosting an informed debate on issues that matter most to Minnesotans… Whether readers agree with us or not, most tell me that they expect the board to weigh in on major issues of the day, and endorsements are an important part of that mix.”
Earlier this month The GP Spin blogged about newspaper candidate endorsements, offering arguments on both sides of the issue.
MPR decides not to conduct political polls
For the first time since 1996, Minnesota Public Radio decided not to conduct political polls. While media polling used to be commonplace, only the Star Tribune and KSTP-TV sponsor polls.
It can be risky for media outlets to conduct political polls because readers are quick to assume bias if the polls skew a certain direction. Polls are also costly to conduct, so it’s an easy cost-cutting measure, especially if the activity could risk the media outlet’s reputation. We agree with MPR’s decision to stick to what it does best – reporting and analyzing the news.
TV anchor makes the news personal
Many in the TV business view small markets as merely a stepping stone, but some of these markets are lucky enough to have anchors who are committed to their communities and stick around for many years. One example of this type of personality is Jennifer Livingston, longtime morning anchor at WKBT-TV, the CBS affiliate in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Livingston made national headlines earlier this month when she responded to an e-mail from a viewer who blamed her for her lack of “community responsibility” because she was obese (video here). TV anchors receive lots of feedback from viewers, both positive and negative. While many develop thick skin and learn not to respond to negative comments, there was something about the hurtful e-mail that made Livingston decide to take it to the La Crosse airwaves, and subsequently, the national spotlight.
This got us to wondering, when is it okay for news personalities to put themselves in the news? Journalists are taught to simply observe and convey information, but there are times when editorializing is acceptable. In the case of Livingston, we applaud her for speaking out and becoming an overnight national spokesperson against bullying.
The beauty of live radio
Finally, we’ll leave you with an audio clip from Fargo, North Dakota, radio station Y94 Playhouse. A caller asked for help moving deer crossing signs from high traffic areas (like highways) to lower traffic areas (like small towns). In all seriousness, this clip highlights how important it is for DJs to take each caller seriously, even when their comments are ridiculous.
Listen for yourself, and let us know on our Facebook page if you think it’s real or a prank.
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