May 9, 2005

Getting Panned


If the NYTimes is the official media arm of the Democratic party, why aren’t they acting the part?

Facing a week in which Senate Republicans are expected to push the nuclear button and detonate the Senate filibuster, this is the shot the Times selected to showcase the opposition.  As a technique, politicians often use public backdrops to frame initiatives. (Here, Senators Clinton, Boxer and Schumer speak out against the nuke tactic in front of the Jefferson Memorial.)  I seriously doubt, however, that Hilary and friends expected a wide view of the plaza calling attention to the photo-op itself. 

Obviously, panning out puts the situation in a completely different context. One impact is that it suddenly looks like a public event.  Displayed this way, the empty background implies that the Senators are completely lacking in popular support.  You can’t say no one is around, however.  The security detail certainly showed up.  (If you drew a line from the agent directly to the left of Clinton, to the cop at the left edge, to the agent with his back to us at the extreme right edge, to the guy facing us just below him, and back again, you would have close to a big empty triangle.)  One could draw a number of implications from this too — however, none of them good.  Can’t you just hear complaints that the Dems are both wasting taxpayer money and endangering safety by tying up vital security personnel?

Certainly, this kind of portrayal has been bleeding the Democrats.  In assessing the problem, however, you have to ask if the Democrats look weak as a result of the coverage, or because they give the media (even the outlets that are more friendly) every opportunity to make them look that way.

(Revised: 2/10/05 1:37 PST) 

(image: Stephen Crowley. May 8, 2005 in The New York Times)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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