Decision Virginia: The Biggest (Negative) Loser?

leadershipNBC 12’s Ryan Nobles performs a little navel gazing regarding charges of negativity amongst the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominees:

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I have to admit, each time the e-mail comes across with a harsh accusation (which they are getting just a bit more harsh as the days before June 9th begin to tick down) I get the urge to run to the computer and post something right away. But I always take a deep breath and ask myself: How much does the average voter really care?

My mandate is a bit different than most political bloggers in that I work for a news organization that covers everything. Rarely, if ever, do most of the things I post about here get on NBC12. So when I pitch a story for the evening newscast, I have to really convince my bosses that a political story merits air time. Attacks, counter-attacks and the defense of them never meets that muster.

But since we are on the topic let’s set the record straight. All three of the democratic candidates for governor have been negative at one point or another. It comes in many different forms: radio-ads, blog posts, “on background” e-mails, twitter updates and YouTube clips. They have all taken the opportunity, either themselves or through their closely associated supporters, to highlight differences in their policies and positions.

It is just part of the process.

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One should immediately add the following:  MSM outlets do precious little to sort out the nonsense.  In fact, some MSM seem to revel in the caricatures we love to draw of public officials, as the WaPo’s Anita Kumar uncharacteristically gets her hands a bit dirty:

Will Pat Mullins, the new chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, turn out to be another Jeff Frederick?

For the gentle reader’s sake, I’ll stop right there.  I’m sure Anita had a smile on her face writing it… and fact is, you can see the jest in the post.  Still, the insight that even journalists aren’t taking negative attacks as seriously as they used to is a cultural development worth watching.  

When the jaded get jaded, it tends to rub off on readers.  But what was more noticeable was the predictable knee-jerk reaction from the Virginia rightosphere — the WaPo post providing ample fodder for an editorialist slant from GOP flagship blog Bearing Drift using the post to demonstrate some sort of division between Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell and RPV Chairman Pat Mullins.  

Intended impact felt in the blogosphere?  Doubtful.   But as Nobles so eruditely points out given similar Democratic efforts, such rumormongering is having little effect in a reading public finally worn out.

Quality vs. Quantity?

So is the public getting tired of negative attacks designed to smear rather than inform?  To some degree, I doubt this.  Tabloids are popular for things other than their prose.  

Still, that the gatekeepers of information (read: journalists) are getting tired of candidates attempting to fire off as many game-changing silver bullets as possible just praying one will hit is an interesting adaptation to a blogosphere now steeped in “gotcha” reporting.  

Anecdotal evidence is showing that the reaction of the MSM isn’t to become more “blog-gy” in most regards, but to step up the in-depth reporting.  The New Yorker, UK Economist, and Newsweek are all leaning in this direction by boosting subscription prices, using the web to either drive people to these interest stories or to react quickly to events.  

Quality is reserved; the rest is left to the bottomfeeders.

Anyone can gossip.  News and information is something quite different, and if this is the ultimate endgame in the struggle between the MSM and the blogosphere, then perhaps the demise of journalism and print media is exaggerated after all.

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