James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Howard Kurtz and the Democratic National Convention

Posted by James McPherson on August 25, 2008

“Four years ago in Boston, a young state senator named Barack Obama took the convention by storm with a rousing speech about unity and hope, an oration without which it is hard to imagine that he would be accepting the nomination this week. Neither ABC, NBC nor CBS carried it.”

Those lines are from a column today by Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, and of course I’ve agreed with the assessment that the speech helped launch Obama’s candidacy, comparing it to Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech for Barry Goldwater 40 years earlier.

Kurtz also offers much else, discussing the “newsworthiness” of political conventions, how the networks will cover the Democratic National Convention that starts today (CNN may have the best pictures), the coverage of John Edwards’ affair, Barack Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as running mate, and Tom Brokaw’s contention that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews have gone “too far” in their biased commentary during the presidential campaign.

The column doesn’t mention Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show,” which probably will offer some of the sharpest insights (mixed, unfortunately, with often sophomoric wit) about the convention.

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One Response to “Howard Kurtz and the Democratic National Convention”

  1. Luis Lopez said

    Funny that you should mention “The Daily Show,” Jim. I just read a little blurb on CNN today (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/page/3/) about how Stewart is criticizing many within the mainstream media for acting sycophantic towards the candidates. A really interesting point Stewart made was about the notion of how elections have deviated from real, substantive issues and have been focused instead on frivolous issues. Case in point, I saw on article on Politico about Joe Biden’s hair (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0808/12760.html).

    Also, you mentioned how “The Daily Show” uses sophomoric humor. Personally, I think that is one of the charms of the show. The use of sophomoric humor is a nod to its audience, which is mostly 18-34 year olds. You can tell that the show does not try to take itself too seriously, and its use of sophomoric humor is an attempt to be the kid in the back of the classroom making fun of the teacher trying to teach the class. Moreover, Stewart himself is sometimes embarrassed by use of dumb humor, but, again, that’s one of the charms of the show.

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