After following the 2012 presidential elections for the past three months, I have noticed how the media covers politics -- and I am not exactly liking what I am seeing.
The 24-hour coverage of politics has become a staple in our everyday lives. People can turn on the TV at any time of day or night and watch discussions about the elections, live-coverage of events or public debates over the issues. After experiencing this with the eyes of a first time voter, I discovered that constant news is really something we could live without and even be better for it.
During the presidential debates, there would be pre-event coverage, live coverage of the actual debate and finally some post-event coverage. And for what? Most people are not going to spend five hours in front of the TV taking in all of this information. Especially since it is not new information. The pre-event coverage of the presidential debates is full of speculation. Who will come out on top? What issues will they debate tonight? These questions don't need to be discussed on a national news program when everyone who chooses to watch the debates will simply find out in about 20 minutes. I don't want people talking at me constantly with information that isn't even relevant.
The debate itself seems appropriate enough to cover live. It is something that most people end up watching and is important in our society for the sake of holding media stations accountable for reliability. Still, with both candidates being less than honest, it is difficult as an individual viewer to discern between fact and truth. The media can give us this with fact-checkers and experts, but they need time to do this. It cannot be instantaneous even though that it what people expect and want.
Post-event coverage isn't much better. The moment the candidates step off stage, reporters and experts are buzzing with results. It's simply more speculation about who won and why without any real numbers to back it up. Everyone walks around saying "Romney won the debates," before the polls come back with actual results. Even if the polls come back and say Obama and Romney are tied, the original message sticks. This is a dangerous conundrum.
Numbers and facts -- these are what I want out of political news. The presidential debates coverage did not give me either of these things. These I learn later on, usually the next morning, by reading an article or other news source that reviews the debates after their experts have had time to give the public some real answers.
So what is the point of 24-hour news coverage? In this digital age, we crave the immediacy of news and can get it too, but at a cost. By submitting ourselves to the constant display of news, figures are distorted and facts are sometimes wrong.
If we learn to be patient, and let the media outlets do their job, we will get what we want quickly (not immediately) and, even more vital, we will get it accurately.