The Policy Driven Story: An Anomaly in Campaign Coverage

Ohio Representative John Boehner is currently the minority leader in the House of Representatives. In anticipation and in hope of his party capturing the majority and becoming Speaker, Boehner recently gave a speech about what he would do if Republicans took control of the House.

Horse-race and scandalous coverage is the norm for how media approach campaign stories. Yet both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have chosen to cover Boehner’s story in a different, more policy-driven light. The Wall Street Journal briefly, yet accurately encapsulates Boehner’s proposals, and then takes a bit of the article to highlight the conflict between Democrats and Republicans in the House in the run-up to the election. The New York Times, however, has truly outstanding coverage of Boehner’s propositions.

The article doesn’t isolate Boehner’s speech as a flashpoint for controversy in the House. Instead, it painstakingly constructs the House atmosphere out of which this speech sprang. It legitimizes Boehner’s speech not by taking sides in the debate and being partisan, but by objectively portraying the House and then letting Boehner speak for himself about the changes he wishes to make. Rather than just conveying the personality, tone, or popularity of Boehner, the New York Times gives extensive coverage to the specific policy changes he hopes to implement (i.e. rewriting the budget act, cutting back on ‘commemorative moments’, reigning in earmarks, ending leadership-driven legislation, and putting limits on the number of committees members can be involved in). This provides the public with a tool by which to hold him accountable to his promises. Also, in the web version of this article, the New York Times provides a multimedia sidebar of an excerpt from his speech—a kind of clip most people would only ever see if they continually were tuned into CSPAN.

This article was refreshing in comparison to many of its counterparts in the election. Reading it made me more informed as a voter on Boehner’s stances and made me wish I was living in Ohio so that I could cast a well-informed ballot.



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