With an army of 15,000 journalists in New York covering the Republican National Convention, media organizations should be expected to do a banner job of cutting through the spin and keeping the campaigns honest.The Republican party arrived in New York this week buoyed by a bounce in the polls that many analysts attributed to the Swift Boat controversy which has dogged the Democratic ticket for much of August. The Swift Boat saga was a deft bit of party propaganda by a fringe group of disaffected Vietnam veterans. But the story was kept aloft for weeks by news outlets even after the veterans’ claims were widely discredited. In this money-driven political season, the medium is the message. Arguably, the most influential political players in the election aren’t onstage at the conventions; they’re behind the scenes. They’re the 527 orgs unleashing an unprecedented volume of political advertising in swing states. They’re the TV producers who’ve scripted the nominating conventions to avoid a glimpse of dissent within the party ranks. Sifting through the pomp and pageantry of a presidential election has never been easy. But media orgs don’t need to be reminded of what’s at stake in this race. Print outlets can’t be timid about scrutinizing the lies of both parties. Broadcast nets, which have limited themselves to a scant three hours of live convention coverage spread across four nights, will have to exercise a greater degree of investigative acumen. And cable news nets need to rise above the partisan bickering.
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