Monday, May 28, 2007

The Gathering Storm

Memorial Day is often a quiet news day and this one is not much different. The newest story of the day for us is New England Patriots football player Marquise Hill missing in Louisiana's Lake Ponchartrain. He disappeared while jet skiing. The Coast Guard has moved into recovery mode following a search.

We have included not only the story, but video from our sister-station WDSU in New Orleans on the Web site. While there is interest in the story, our metrics indicate that our viewers are more interested in a story about vandals who burned decorative American flags in Natick, Mass. last week and then stuffed them in a trash can.

Ahead this week we will prepare for special Web coverage of presidential debates to be held June 1 and June 3 at our sister station WMUR in Manchester, N.H. (I work for Internet Broadcasting, which runs the Web sites for more than 25 Hearst-Argyle television stations, and many other station groups as well.)

Covering the debates on the Web sites will be challenging. We are planning multiple livestreams from several different sites which will all be receiving the debate feeds. Getting the logistics planned is one thing. Executing another. At the end of it, we will likely have provided a great deal of information about both the Democratic and Republican candidates, but I often wonder if we're shouting down the rabbit hole with very few to hear us.

I know there is an appetite for politics on the Web, but I'm not sure, in the long term, how much of it people want or will actually read or watch. I am skeptical myself about what politics has become in our country. I'm not certain it has any real relevance anymore to the "price of eggs in Boston," as the old saying goes.

I sometimes suspect that politics in the U.S. is a way for people to think they have a say in how our government is run, but in the long run, I'm not sure our politicians truly have any real or significant impact on world events any longer.

It's almost as if we're rooting for athletic teams when we support a candidate or party, and I'm beginning to think they may have just about as much influence on energy policy or global warming as the Red Sox do -- not much. Certainly not as much, perhaps, as the International Monetary Fund does, or the Group of Eight (G8) , which we almost never cover, unless there are protests surrounding a G8 summit, and even then we (the media) don't seem to do a very good job of explaining what it's all about.

I once worked with an African-American photographer who told me on the way to a story one day, with all solemnity, that he believed a group of about 8 or 12 white men somewhere pretty much controlled the world by controlling all the money. I tried to disguise my incredulity when he said this, but the older I get, the more I wonder.

Which brings me back to the question of whether the time, money and energy we spend covering and publicizing political debates is worth the effort. I'd like to believe that who we vote for still makes a difference, but I see very, very little difference in political parties and politicians once they get in to office.

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