Friday, September 16, 2005

Bait and switch? A few hours ago, I visited the KEYT television studios to view Arnold's reelection campaign announcement and provide a local Democratic response. The event was late in getting started, opened with a yawner of a warmup from state finance director and former Congressman Tom Campbell, and then lapsed into more boredom as the absentee governor was increasingly late. He finally arrived, spoke about three of the doomed propositions on the special election ballot, and then turned the event over to a moderator for questions from the handpicked audience of 200 Republican hacks.

Something was missing. Did Arnold actually ever announce his candidacy?

KEYT started interviewing me before the Q&A got started, and I was out of there before I could get a chance to listen to what was billed as a town hall. Driving away, I scrambled to get radio coverage to hear the words that have been hyped for almost an entire week. Nothing.

I finally found a Sacramento Bee piece (free registration required) that caught the announcement, made almost as an afterthought, at the very end of the discussion. But the hype had been all about the next election, and today's speech was about nothing more than this election. Were the media hoodwinked into covering this event so that Arnold could get free publicity for his lagging pet propositions?

It reminds me of something that happened during the Presidential campaign last year. George Bush, lagging in the polls as John Kerry's message started to take hold, announced that he would deliver a major policy address on terrorism and requested network media coverage. What reporters heard was nothing more than his standard stump speech, delivered to a hand-picked sympathetic audience. The national media never really showed outrage at having been tricked into covering a partisan campaign speech as a major news event.

Will our media pick up the hint this time? Will they be on guard for bait-and-switch Arnold events over the next few months that turn out to be nothing more than standard campaign pablum?

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