Race is a dominant issue, says the Lexington Herald Leader, because Kentuckians were asked if they thought Reverend Jeremiah Wright's comments were important to their vote and 215 of them said yes. These same 500 Kentuckians were also asked if Senator Obama's race makes him more or less likely to win the presidential primary here, and 105 of them said it would make him less likely to win.
My immediate reaction was "great, another story about Kentucky's problem with race." But as I thought about it I realized it's just another example of the difference between mainstream media and social media. And it's a great example of why corporate media is dying.
Look at what Americans say are the ten most important problems facing the country right now, according to Gallup: The economy (41%), the war in Iraq (23%), the price of fuel (9%), health care (8%), unemployment (6%), dissatisfaction with government (6%), immigration issues (5%), high cost of living (4%), lack of money (4%), moral decline (3%) and terrorism (3%).
Heck, look at the most important issues gleaned from this very Herald-Leader poll: the economy leads by a wide margin. Then the war (if you're a Democrat), national security (if you're a Republican), and health care (if you're an Independent).
Now look at the poll questions the Herald Leader chose to ask (pdf) for this story and implied that race was essentially the dominant political issue in Kentucky right now:
In terms of how you will vote, how important are the remarks made by Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright?So just like the ABC News debate debacle last month in Pennsylvania, the public is focused on the issues that actually affect them, while some in the "professional" media want to keep talking about who's black, who's a woman, and stupid things people say - including something said by a guy who isn't even a candidate.
In terms of how you will vote, how important are the misstatements made by Hillary Clinton about her trip to Bosnia?
In terms of how you will vote, how important are the comments made by Barack Obama in San Francisco about small-town voters?
Do you think Barack Obama's race makes him more or less electable in Kentucky or does Obama's race not matter in his getting elected?
Do you think Hillary Clinton's gender makes her more or less electable in Kentucky or does Clinton's gender not matter in her getting elected?
I think the folks who did this poll may just be trying to see if the Wright/sniper fire/bitter non-issues had an impact. My answer is simple - any story that's forced down the throats of the American people every day for several weeks by the media will have an impact. With due respect to my friends in the professional media, this isn't one of those stories in which consumers demand more details. Those same consumers have given the media a blueprint of what's news.
Corporate media is dying not simply because they're competing with the online channel. They're dying because they continue to try to control the discussion and steer us toward topics people just don't find important, and more consumers are having none of that.
Campaign '08 will be remembered as the last presidential election in which the corporate media controlled what issues frame the election. Count on it.