The Media Spotlight


For anyone that has been following US politics, it might have crossed your newsdesk that Eric Cantor lost his House Republican seat against David Brat. Not a small loss given that Cantor is the House Republican Majority Leader, so certainly worth some media attention. But if there’s a surer sign of the excessive media spotlight, its when a single story gets run into the ground with frankly excessive coverage. Beyond the news that Cantor lost (somewhat unclear how that single issue can get restated in so many different ways) and who might take over his job as House Majority Leader, there all manner of articles ranging from its impact on the Democratic Party, the role of the media, the role of money, the future of issues like immigration, the rise of the Tea Party, reactions from senators and house representatives.

My RSS reader exploding with Cantor related stories...

My NYT RSS feed exploding with Cantor related stories…

My point is, the fact that US politics focused almost exclusively on this singular story – devoting considerable coverage, air time, column space – is just a sign of both the intensity and excessive nature of the news media spotlight. Yes, he lost, yes it probably matters for Republican leadership, at best it’s a sign of other underlying trends. But no, it doesn’t deserve the excess of news coverage it’s garnered. Almost nothing does. Profiles on every possibly connected individual, excessive analysis of possible causes and even the most tenuous effects.

Perhaps it’s better if we all just chilled out. Analysis in the heat of the moment is almost never very useful.

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7 comments

  1. The House Majority Leader just lost in a primary to a randomer who spent less than $200,000 on his campaign. I don’t think it’s excessive at all.

    It’s only been a short time since the primary ended. Expect the story to remain current at least until the the election is over.

    1. Edit: And it was completely unexpected, too, given Cantor was up by 30 points in polling (if I remember correctly), so that no doubt makes the result more shocking.

      1. He was up 30 on his internal polls, there weren’t that many independent ones, admittedly because everyone expected him to win anyways.
        A wave of attention is understandable. Hyperanalysis from every possible and impossible angle is not.
        Also, the election is over. Not I guess the Majority Leader one, but that’s a derivative story, not one that’s about Cantor.

          1. The idea that the general election hinges upon the election result of a single House seat is even more worrying! To the extent that Cantor’s loss is reflective of underlying trends in the general election, I’m not sure why framing the issue in terms of Cantor’s loss is either helpful or useful, and contrary concerns about over-generalisation or failure to recognize context-specific factors would arise.

              1. I think you’re right in predicting that come GE, there’ll be coverage of that district in a way that wouldn’t have otherwise occured. Not sure that’s something that’s necessary or even relevant per say, unless of course both parties decide to make a serious and all-out effort to contest that seat in which case fair game.

                I guess the point is that coverage of this particular race is not in itself of any value, but derivative of the story that ‘OMG Cantor lost’. Unless there’s additional attention laid there by either party, it’s just a normal election and as potentially representative of trends as other races.

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