The mainstream media is shining a spotlight on national politics right now. Just consider that there have been more than 20 debates for the GOP primary so far — many of them with big-name sponsors that include CNN, CNBC, Fox News, Bloomberg and The Washington Post.
But don’t kid yourself. The sad reality is that while there may be plenty of nominal coverage, that doesn’t mean the mainstream media is shedding a whole lot of light on anything.
Job creation, tax reform and help for American small businesses are complicated issues — but too often boiled down to soundbites on big networks. And perhaps more disturbing is that financial news outlets who know this stuff cold would prefer to sit on their hands or stick with day-to-day coverage of the markets instead.
Allow me to kick around CNBC, which is an apt target by virtue of its entrenched position and self description as “First in Business Worldwide.” The network devoted no special programming to the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.
That would be galling enough — except that CNBC actually sponsored a Republican Primary debate in November! Why bother hosting a debate if you don’t care about the platforms and candidates featured there?
Perhaps most absurd is that CNBC was busy airing paid programming — that is, infomercials — and reruns at the same time results for Iowa were coming in.
Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering — CNBC was back at it this past weekend. While Newt Gingrich was making his first comments about his primary victory in South Carolina to Neil Cavuto on rival Fox Business, CNBC was in infomercial land … again.
To be fair, CNBC isn’t the only one botching things. And hey, at least it hosted a debate at all.
It’s also worth noting that CNBC also wins points for not stooping to the levels of CNN’s John King, who asked about Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife. Even in the midst of the Herman Cain scandal, CNBC had the class to start out with a real question. Anchor Maria Bartiromo pressed Cain instead on Italy and its threat to the U.S. financial system to open the debate — a pretty good opener, and not a softball by any stretch.
CNBC does a lot of good things. It’s just disappointing to not see any follow-through.
And frankly, there’s not a lot of room for error here. The American people deserve wall-to-wall coverage on the issues of money and politics since these issues are what really matter right now.
I’m not saying it’s easy to cover the area where politics and finance intersect. Heck, it’s hard enough to cover one separate from the other. But that’s no excuse.
In the spirit of that mission, InvestorPlace recently launched a new feature on our website — InvestorPolitics, a blog meant to be an open forum for our readers on the issues of politics and finance that are so significant these days. We will feature commentary from investors and politicos, but also from regular folks just like you. It’s your opportunity to speak out on the issues that matter and have a conversation with real voters.
Here, hopefully you can get the real story that other financial outlets aren’t willing to tell.
The rest of the business media world would be wise to take a cue from Cavuto. On Jan. 3 as the Iowa caucus unfolded, he crammed in almost 11 hours of work — from his regular 4 p.m. show Your World through his final sign-off at 2:37 a.m. (which contains a thinly veiled dig at CNBC, no less).
Just by showing up, Cavuto’s actions speak volumes. But his philosophy toward political coverage on his home network of Fox Business is even more telling. Here’s what he told media watchdog Mediaite:
“I see rival networks giving a perfunctory, ‘So and so won this primary,’ and then they’re back to a Teflon commercial, or they’re running a seven-year-old special, and I think I owe my viewers more. I think that they deserve more. People are into this. And we as a financial network owe it to (our viewers to) be into this ourselves.”
Cavuto obviously is taking this seriously. Here’s hoping that Fox Business, CNBC and all the rest keep stay on the ball as Election Day 2012 approaches.
And if they don’t? Please send your thoughts along to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will make sure your voice is heard, and that the most important financial issues of this election get the coverage they deserve.