The split-screen nature of the 24-hour news cycle and what it means for the 2012 election

Yesterday, before work, I was having lunch and watching CNN. It was in the afternoon. I glanced at the flatscreen TV and saw the President. I then went to order my lunch. When I sat down to watch the President, I saw John McCain standing next to him. I thought, that’s strange. Maybe Obama’s 2008 rival is parterning with the President for some reason. No. Looking closer, he was Mitt Romney. No. Stepping back, it was Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

CNN had a split-screen of the President and the prospective 2012 Republican nominee. Besides realizing how much Obama and Romney look alike, I realized the split-screen nature of the 24-hour news cycle.

Flash forward to today. I was having my coffee and reading The New York Times. Just as CNN had a split-screen of Obama and Romney, *The New York Times * had two front page headlines about Obama and Romney; “Bucking Senate, Obama Appoints Consumer Chief” and “Romney Showing Financial Muscle For Next Round”.

So who won the 24-hour news cycle? Obama or Romney? Or was it a bust? They both were split-screened on CNN afterall and they both made the front page of The New York Times.

I am following the 2012 election. I read The New York Times every day. I watch CNN. I don’t have time to watch CNN for hours, though. As I mentioned, I spend less than an hour watching CNN. I spend approximately an hour reading The New York Times. (That means that I won’t watch The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News for an hour).

Again, who won the 24-hour news cycle and what does winning the 24-hour news cycle mean for winning the 2012 election?

I don’t think the 24 hour news cycle is something you can win or lose…

As I pointed before, the true nature of the modern mainstream media is not to be liberal or conservative, they are usually part of a corporation, and the bottom line is the important thing.

In the era of the internet, traditional media are losing revenue, no wonder they usually support and are virtually not making a peep about police state like measures like SOPA that will benefit their corporations.

Elections are an important if not the most important element for revenue that they have left, it is more essential than ever for them to ensure that there is a horse race, otherwise less money will come their way in the way of advertisements because if there is no horse race less money will go their way. This is still possible for them because voters are still usually from a demographic that does not use new media but traditional ones like TV, radio and the published press.

Fox News agrees with you.

Nobody won. Every mainstream news source will be bending over backward for the next ten months to show Romney and Obama as equals in the campaign. It’s a truism, not a truth.

One thing I like about Obama, compared to Bush or the Clintons, is that he seems to not pursue “winning the news cycle” strategy as much. Which is good, I think that idea led the last two Presidents into endlessly tying themselves in knots as they launched poorly thought-out statements or initiatives in an endless effort to step on the other guys poorly thought-out statements or initiatives. Over short periods it might make them do better in the public opinion, but I think the net effect was detrimental.

And I don’t think “the news cycle” actually makes much of a difference anyways. The audiences of the 24hr news networks are actually pretty small, and largely made up of people with strong political opinions that aren’t effected by the news cycle anyways. They’re not as influential as people give them credit for.

Obama once told Chuck Todd “I know everybody here is on a 24 hour news cycle. I’m not.”

Are you sure? What about that couple that I saw having a sandwich and coffee at McDonald’s when CNN had the split-screen of Obama and Romney? What about the guy in the blazer at Starbucks reading The New York Times with the front page headlines on Obama and Romney? The couple is probably going to then go shopping, go to the theater or somewhere; the guy in the blazer is probably going to to the office. It may have been an hour, a half hour, fifteen minutes. I’m not talking about some politico, not sleeping, sitting in “war room” with CNN on for 24 hours. Aren’t average Americans who stop at McDonald’s or Starbucks affected by the 24-hour news cycle even if it’s only fifteen minutes? Aren’t these “couples at McDonald’s” or “guys in blazers” at Starbucks more influential than people give them credit for?

Not really. We know that something like 80% of the population votes for the party in presidential elections. The remainder are not spending every day looking at who’s winning the news cycle. They’re undecided exactly because they’re not paying any attention. They’ll make up their minds at the last minute and none of this stuff that we political junkies are obsessing about will ever penetrate their awareness.

Why aren’t they paying any attention?

Which is why CNN, a mainstream news source, had live coverage of Obama and Romney simultaneously on a split-screen.

Because they aren’t that concerned about politics. Because they aren’t news watchers. Because they are too wrapped up in making a living. Because they are disillusioned. Because their world isn’t like our world. Because they know that nothing really starts happened until just before the election. Because they are stupid. Because they are cynical. Because they’ve been through it before.

We’re talking 20 million people so there are many reasons. It’s well established, though. People who are undecided stay undecided until the last minute. And they are undecided because they don’t pay attention, not because they are independents who want to get swayed by cogent arguments and political platforms. They’re Leno’s Jaywalking crowd who can’t name the president. But they vote, and they decide elections.