I don’t care about Chris Christie, and I don’t care about Hillary Clinton—at least not right now. And unless either the governor of New Jersey or the former Secretary of State is involved in something of national relevance, political pundits shouldn’t care either. Yet for months now, cable news networks have shown an alarming interest in the possibility of a Christie vs. Clinton matchup in the 2016 presidential election.
It’s an understandable (though not quite noble) concept: pit two of the most well-known politicians in the country against each other and you’ll see your viewing numbers skyrocket from those you’d see by reporting the boring, “normal” news. Despite my credentials (being caught up on “The Newsroom”), I’m not the authority on integrity in broadcast journalism, but it’s clear that networks are at fault for sacrificing timely and relevant stories in order to boost their ratings. International spying allegations, tropical storms in the Pacific Islands and Obamacare are just a few issues that are more relevant and worthy of coverage; such stories should outweigh predictions of an election that is still three long years off.
Moreover, networks are shining a (presumably) unwanted spotlight on said candidates. For example, a recent TIME magazine cover portrayed Gov. Christie’s shadow with the headline “The Elephant in the Room.” While a clever use of the GOP mascot, the headline also proved remarkably insensitive toward the governor—a negative byproduct of intense media scrutiny. Of course, media coverage is an occupational hazard, but politicians’ words are also now being scrutinized for possible “hints” of a presidential run. Instead of analyzing politicians’ actions for their merit, outlets unnecessarily try to portray their rhetoric for cheap and easy news. This false extrapolation is not only obnoxious but also representative of another possible breach in journalistic integrity.
Networks are not only failing to cover more relevant topics but promoting unreliable information as well: presidential predictions this early simply have no way of being accurate. After the 2004 reelection of President George W. Bush, media outlets widely speculated that the 2008 race would feature New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, then a New York Senator. As we all know, this clash of the titans never came to fruition. Similarly, who knows who will be running in 2016? It could be Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, or even everyone’s favorite candidates, Anthony Weiner and Herman Cain. Whatever the outcome may be, the prospective candidacies are almost certain to fluctuate in the next three years, so the media would be better off avoiding the enterprise entirely.
Early political predictions represent, in my opinion, an alarming misstep in current television journalism. The trend is also only perpetuated: when shows boost ratings by way of long-range presidential predictions, other shows have no choice but to follow suit, creating a vicious cycle of uncertain reporting and media irrelevancy.