Were you able to tune in to catch any of the conventions late this summer? I tuned in to each, in part to catch a speech by Ted Kennedy, who, battling serious health issues, received a rousing amount of emotional support from his Democratic brethren, and in part to watch Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's remarks. Regardless of where your politics lie, it is amazing that just a few short weeks ago Palin was virtually unknown outside of Alaska. I mostly think of Palin for attempting to sell the state's jet on eBay. Today, Palin and the other candidates are under intense media scrutiny, a process you'll frequently hear referred to as "vetting."The media has a purpose in our society. We Americans don't think much of the media. I've heard it described as being made up of people who would cannibalize each other. That said, we're the first as consumers to pick up the tabloid rags sold at supermarkets and to watch the TV tabloids, latching on to any amount of gossip about public figures and celebrities, regardless of the facts and, more importantly, relevance. Does it matter that former presidential candidate John Edwards had an affair? If he were still running for president I'd argue it does, because it goes to his character and morals. No longer a candidate, I think it matters less. Much less. John Edwards is nothing more than another citizen to you and me as we sit here in Pennsylvania. What about former President Clinton's mistakes? Given the situation and that it was committed in the Oval Office I'll argue this was a great abuse of power and our right to know was justified.
My point is that our need to know about the personal lives of public figures has gotten to the point where it says a lot about us. This point was made a few months ago when a pair of Philly TV news anchors, CBS's Alycia Lane and Larry Mendte, got into a heap of trouble that privately made many of us feel better about ourselves. Why? Because we love to see the perceived elite among us fall.
A long time ago, in a classroom at Temple's main campus, a professor of media history, Fred Farrar, told me the media is in business to make money and that means increased ratings in broadcast and higher circulations in the print industry. Give the consumer what they want - and today that means a lot of scandal.
The best way to let politicians know you won't succumb to negative advertising is to tell them. Call their campaign offices, write an e-mail or a letter, but let them know. The best way to deal with the media is even easier. Don't support the media channels that you believe are working to run stories you think go too far. The media is supposed to be a watchdog - a watchdog, not a pit bull. So turn the channel or boycott the periodical, newspaper or magazine you believe crosses a line.
The most important thing is getting educated. Each candidate running for office, either locally or nationally, has positions on a range of issues, many posted online. Read credible, fact-based sources about the candidates to get informed, and stay away from sources of information that don't offer any real content, instead choosing to provide the latest dirt or scandal.
The media, politicians and their ability to go to market with a successful campaign or product only works 'when we drink the Kool-Aid,' as the result of this strategy is sometimes known. To be a choosy media consumer, stay away from the scandal sheets and tabloid TV shows. Get educated, find out what's important to you and who's the right person to achieve the fundamental goals you think are best for our country, state and community. Then, when you vote on Nov. 4, you'll know you exercised your right to vote in the most productive way. See ya around town.
David DiRenzo, of Milford Township, is a sales manager for a Philadelphia-based radio station. He can be reached via his Web site and blog, www.onemansview.net.