Covering Obama
08/01/2008 - 00:00
Gary Rosenblatt

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Rob Goldblum, Managing Editor

The Jewish Week has heard from some readers unhappy about what they see as an imbalance in  our coverage of this year’s presidential campaigns.  Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has been on the front page a lot in recent months; Sen. John McCain, his GOP rival, has not.

It’s a fair criticism because at least in terms of the number of stories, there has been an imbalance.

But that is the result not of a pro-Obama bias by editors or reporters, but the way the campaigns have spun out in recent months and in particular the campaigns for Jewish votes - the special interest of Jewish Week readers.

Sen. Obama’s campaign, surprisingly media savvy despite their champion’s relative inexperience, has kept their candidate in the spotlight throughout the summer months, when the usual election-year media frenzy slows down.

Obama has made some real news of interest to our community, including his surprise announcement that he will support a variation of the Bush administration’s faith based initiative, his clumsy remarks and subsequent “clarification” about an “undivided” Jerusalem and his recent trip to Israel.

The Obama campaign has a big and efficient Jewish outreach team; the McCain campaign’s effort, as the Jewish Week noted in a story this week, has yet to gel, which means the GOP contender is not generating the kind of focused news coverage of his rival.

John McCain is a known quantity to most Jewish voters, which is why he is doing better in the polls than recent Republican candidates. He isn’t working hard to introduce himself to a political segment that already knows who he is and what he stands for.  Obama is slick but elusive.  His followers believe his campaign is full of promise, but to reporters it’s also full of intriguing question marks.

The Jewish Week is not alone.  There has been an active discussion throughout the mainstream media of the difficulty of not seeming to take sides in the campaign when one candidate seems to be producing much more news than the other.

We can assure our readers of this: Jewish Week editors and reporters are aware of these concerns and will strive to avoid any hint of bias in our news coverage. But we will also continue to call the stories as we see them. If that produces more stories about one candidate than the other, well, that’s the news biz.

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