Many may consider this an unusual article. It certainly comes at an unusual time. Not being a news source I don’t have to worry about timing to the same extent many other bloggers do. However, I’d like to think you have a better chance of learning something here than a lot of other places.
This article is being written on Thursday afternoon. You will read it Friday morning at the soonest. The talk of the day will be Hillary Clinton’s Thursday night acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. I may comment on that in a future posting; we’ll see. Today I want to talk about how to watch a news event like a national convention.
The inspirations for this article came from two friends. One who years ago told me he often watches the State of the Union address on C-SPAN to avoid the commentary. He wants to listen to the speech and will do his own analysis. I have to admit I have taken his path more often than not in recent years and intend to do so in the future.
The second inspiration came from a text I received from a friend, political confidant and respected source of opinion that came in about midnight last night. Her initial text read, “I know you enjoyed that as much as I did. That was brilliant!” She was referring to President Obama’s speech to the convention.
When I saw how relaxed he was as he walked onto the stage I expected one of if not his greatest speech ever. (That is a mighty high bar!) His speech was good, perhaps very good; but it did not meet my unrealistically high expectations and this was in a night with several great speeches.
I sent a text back beginning, “Actually I liked Biden, O’Malley and Brown better.” (O’Malley is former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Brown is California Governor Jerry Brown.)
Most Americans probably didn’t hear O’Malley or Brown’s speeches. Most Americans watched the convention on cable or network news. Those broadcasts often start later, missing the early speakers. The networks that don’t limit their coverage supplement it with interviews and commentary.
If you are a casual observer of or new to politics network coverage is great. It explains what is going on and can put it in perspective. Network bias has to be guarded against. I don’t have the time but it would be interesting to juxtapose the coverage of liberal MSNBC and conservative Fox News. The inclusion of supposedly moderate (but in my opinion somewhat right leaning) CNN would make the experiment even more eye opening.
Many of the early speakers, or those the networks choose to talk over, give some very good speeches. The problem is that few outside the hall get to hear them. (Anyone who thinks all the delegates are in the hall and paying attention is fooling themself!)
Joe Biden has always been one of my favorite people in politics. I have never really met him and was only in the same room with him once, but he seems like a really nice guy. His political resume is outstanding and in all fairness he turned in the best performance in the 2008 Democratic Primary Debates. That is saying a lot! Remember that field included Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, three pretty good performers. Biden scored a lot of points with me because he worked the work malarkey into his speech. Appropriately he was discussing Donald Trump’s “policies”.
Stealing a line from Nate Silver, among other things, watching events without commentary and cutaways helps you separate the signal for the noise. That will be important this election! By the way, thanks Jeff and Alitha!
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