A Free Press report released this week says that “perhaps the most important story of the 2012 presidential election is the toxic mix of money, politics and media that is shaping so much of the discourse in the months before the general election. Yet that’s not a story you’ll find on the local news.”
In the report, called “Left In the Dark,” Free Press and volunteers examined the political files of CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox News affiliates in Tampa Bay, as well as four other markets located in key swing states — and found that while many TV stations are covering local and national races, they are ignoring the ever-expanding role money and the media are playing in these contests.
An example of this kind of sin of omission comes from WTSP 10 News.
To its credit, WTSP has been the only local TV station to devote news time to fact-checking any of the most prominent groups buying political ads. In a single segment running less than 3 minutes it rated an Americans for Prosperity ad as false.
The WTSP segment featured PolitiFact Florida’s Katie Sanders, who found that the ad made false claims about President Obama and the national debt. “On the Truth-o-Meter this got a false,” Sanders told WTSP co-anchor Heather Van Nest.
This ruling, however, did not keep the station from profiting from the ad — WTSP ran the group’s anti-Obama ads more than 150 times the same month it fact-checked the commercial.
There’s this and a lot more to digest — like the stat that affiliate stations in Tampa Bay were airing on average more than 200 political ads a day throughout August or the one about, through the first three weeks of August, viewers saw an average of 232 political ads per day — in the Free Press report. Be sure to check it out.
Material from Tracie Powell of the Poynter Institute was used at the beginning of this post.