Some say that 2008 will be remembered as the "year that journalism died." And, watching the media's fawning coverage of Obama over the past year, it's difficult to challenge that assertion.
Still, there are a few, faint glimmers of hope and in a most unlikely spot--local TV news. For decades, local stations have been the whipping boy of media critics and their brethren in the national press. Local newscasts are often derided (and sometimes fairly) for being sensational and consultant-driven in their content, with non-stop coverage of crime and traffic accidents.
But that characterization is slightly unfair, when you consider that some local stations have done yeoman work in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign. In some cases, local reporters and anchors have tackled stories that the broadcast and cable networks refused to touch.
The most famous example (so far) is the tough interview of Joe Biden by WFTV (Orlando) anchor Barbara West. While Ms. West was pilloried for her questions, she broached topics consistently ignored by the network types, who've been covering Biden for months, or even years. The Democratic vice-presidential nominee also faced tough questions from an anchor team at KYW-TV in Philadelphia.
And, in a year when fraudulent and duplicate voter registrations are a serious concern, stations in Georgia, Ohio and Florida actually tried to find out if people were voting in multiple states. Reporters and researchers from WSB-TV (Atlanta), WCPO-TV (Cincinnati) and WFTV and WFTS (Tampa) poured over records in the three states. Their findings are both startling and disturbing; they found more than 100,000 Georgia voters are also registered in one of the other states.
WSB also found at least three Georgia residents have also cast ballots in another state--triggering an investigation by the Secretary of State's office. Something tells us there are more "multi-state" voters where those came from. We hope the team at WSB (and their colleagues in Florida and Ohio) will continue their work.
Meanwhile, someone ought to ask ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN if they have any plans to cover this story. We'll give FNC a partial pass, because reporters like Eric Shawn have been following the voter registration fraud story for weeks.
Kudos to the "blow dried" local TV types who are running rings around the competition on one of the most important--and under-reported--stories of the year.