Posted by: Joe Kuffner | October 12, 2015

Reality TV News Coverage, featuring “everyday Iowans”

It’s been ten years since I was a student, so I had forgotten what A-Ha! moments – intuitively grasping a concept that you’ve only just learned existed – felt like. But “reality television news reporting” quickly reminded me.

As defined in Chapter 3 of Mediating the Message in the 21st Century, realty news coverage involves “the use of dramatic narrative and visuals to present a mediated event that becomes more real than the event itself.

The relentless media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign offers myriad examples of reality news reporting. Always in search of grist for the Election 2016! coverage mill and constrained by how candidates restrict access, media organizations often blithely play along as the campaigns construct staged events meant solely for generating news coverage. (Of course, this is far from exclusive to politics – take a quick look at the recent coverage of the new iPhone release.)

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has thus far limited press access, and has instead relied on scripted campaign events to “control the message.” (Good politics? Probably, though a recent New York Times article criticized her campaign being aloof and lacking spontaneity.)

One of her first campaign events in Iowa was billed as a “roundtable with everyday Iowa voters” at a smalltown coffeeshop, and covered as such: see here, here, and here.

Turns out the “everyday Iowans” she met with her all recruited by her campaign staff and were involved in Democratic politics. Nefarious? Not really. Reality television news reporting? Absolutely.

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