Can’t resist another lesson learned from this increasingly interesting political season. Sen. Clinton took a strategic risk and violated many standard PR principles by attacking press coverage of her campaign vs. her opponent. It’s risky because the press doesn’t like to be criticized, particularly by someone they are scrutinizing. In fact they laughed it off–but the Clinton campaign kept up the pressure and the pot boiled over when Saturday Night Live ran the sketch hilariously illustrating the Clinton camp’s view of the difference in press scrutiny between the two. Suddenly there was a huge switch. You could feel it. I challenge a communication student to do a study comparing the press coverage of the two campaigns and see if the SNL sketch will indeed prove to be the turning point.
Now Sen Obama is in a fight for his reputation and political opportunity. It is a legitimate issue and a legitimate concern–but I also suspect and believe that the piling on of the press on this issue is in part motivated by some sense of guilt they feel–prompted strangely by the combination of direct attacks and the SNL event–about their biased coverage.
Observing bias is a little like explaining the theory of relativity–what you see says more about your position as an observer than the reality of moving bodies. In other words, if I now say I think the media coverage of the Rev Wright issue is biased against Obama, those who disagree will try to point out that I only take that view because of a positive opinion. Certainly the Clinton camp is not seeing the coverage of the Wright issue as biased–only fair and balanced so to speak.
Clinton has proven one important point–there comes a time when your reputation is at stake to turn on the media and focus the attention there. But it remains very risky and you need to be almost as desperate as she was. Plus, it helps to have the producers of SNL on your side before you do it.