August 20, 2007

The Dean Treatment



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I continue to be fascinated how the traditional media plays Edwards for a pin cushion.  No other candidate seems such a target for cosmetic analysis, motivational inconsistencies and now, (pejorative) emotional temperature readings.

With the horse race-obsessed media touting a Clinton Iowa lead, the framing last week highlighted the attitudinal responses of the Edwards and Obama campaigns.  Because it is somehow not obvious to The NYT that political races often organically grow more contentious, the illuminating news from the campaign trail involved how these two supposed-underdogs were sharpening their elbows.

Take a look, however, at the uneven application of both the textual and visual semantics. 

In their August 17th piece, the Times headline identified Obama as taking a “sharper tone.”  The headline on the Edwards story two days later, in comparison, labeled him (and his so-attributed “attack dog” wife) as adopting a “harsher” tone.  Also, compare the accompanying images, being mindful of how pictures can either soften or accentuate a headline — not to mention an emerging or prevailing stereotype.

In Obama’s case, with his distance from the camera, the positive reception from the audience, his impressive scale and, most importantly, his smiling countenance, what’s could be wrong with a little hardball?

Edwards, on the other hand, comes off as hard boiled. Given the cheery mood of the folks off JE’s left shoulder; what appears like a mild case of sun burn; the association of desperation based on the “must win” term further coined in the headline; and maybe even a slight uptick in color saturation in Photoshop, what might have been just been a look of concern or intent suddenly carries the aura of lava.

(image 1: Perry, Iowa.  August 2007.  image 2: Keith Bedford for The New York Times. August 16. Atlantic, Iowa.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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