On Friday, Daniel Schwarz, an English professor from Cornell, spoke to the UR community about presidential election reporting in the New York Times and the effects of the Times’ struggle in the Internet Age on its coverage.
The Times is already covering Election 2008 and has been for months, though the election is over a year away. According to Schwarz, the Times’ early election coverage has taken the normally slow and methodical campaign process and turned it into what Schwarz described as a horse race.
One instance of this race mentality that Schwarz presented was the attention the Times gave to the GOP’s Iowa Straw Poll, an event he viewed as one of little significance.
“The student government president or Prom Queen could get as many votes as Mike Huckabee got there,” Schwarz said.
There is, argued Schwarz, really one reason that the Times has changed its coverage, and it began decades ago – the growth of New Journalism.
New Journalism shifted reporting from the traditional news story to one that prefers anecdotes and other information to give readers a new perspective on events. The Internet has taken that shift even further, with the paper having to compete with news available instantly, 24-hours a day.
Schwarz said that in the coverage of the 2008 Presidential Election, the writing becomes the event.
The Times, because they have started coverage so early, has had to resort to “buzzwords,” as Schwarz called them. Additionally, they have used factors, including fundraising, to determine who will be front runners. These labels, however, do not have much real meaning.
The Times treated John Edwards as a frontrunner until July, when his “novelty” was gone, and stopped treating John McCain as one even though he is still running, according to Schwarz. When the Times finally endorses a candidate, Schwarz predicted that it would choose Hillary Clinton, “the Teflon candidate.”
Despite its flaws and its coverage of the 2008 Presidential Election as a sporting event – a trend that Schwarz attributed to news media in general – Schwarz expressed confidence in the Times.
According to Schwarz, the Times is not quite the player it once was and never will be. However, he said, it still provides the best reporting.
Fleming is a member of the class of 2010.