A note to media observers: All coverage of presidential candidate Ron Paul is bona fide coverage. Even the meta-media stuff.
A little background here: Paul scored huge in the Ames straw poll this month, a result out of whack with pre-Ames coverage that all too often ignored the longtime Texas congressman. Thus began an extended round of media-on-media stories about Paul and his lack of exposure.
This particular laundry cycle has produced the notion that, somehow, meta-media attention isn’t real campaign attention. Politico advanced this strain of thought when it chronicled all the media retrospectives:
But many of these media hits were, in a way, meta-media hits, beginning with some version of the curiously self-negating question: Is the media ignoring you?
Mediaite struck a similar theme in highlighting a segment on Fox News’ The Five regarding Paul:
The Five’s Dana Perino promised today that they were going to “fix” the problem most often cited by Ron Paul and his supporters; that he was being ignored by the media. However, while the show did dedicate an entire segment to the Congressman, it’s probably not the kind of media coverage he or his fans intended as the [tenor] of the piece was resoundingly negative from all . . . of the titular five hosts.
A commenter on a previous Erik Wemple Blog post wrote this:
Surely you’re kidding? Are you trying to say that coverage of Ron Paul not getting coverage is a bonanza blown out of proportion. The fact that we’re having this conversation is a tad ridiculous.
Give him actual coverage, then we’ll talk.
Time to talk.
These meta-media stories on the candidate invariably swerve away from the media navel-gazing questions and into the heart of the Ron Paul idea arsenal. And it’s clear that Paul himself has managed to steer the focus in that direction.
Sample the interview with Morgan. Within a minute of the segment’s kickoff, Paul tore into a stump speech on his ideology:
My supporters are convinced, ‘[The media are] they’re afraid of me, they don’t want my views out there — they’re too dangerous. We want freedom and we’re challenging the status quo. We want to end the war, we want the gold standard.’ And they’re views that the people just can’t handle. They can’t handle all this freedom. They want dependency. They want socialism and welfarism; so I think they don’t like to hear our views.
Paul later went on about how he would “slash into” President Obama’s “civil libertarian” policies and so on.
The Washington Post ombudsman, likewise, chewed on some Paul policies: “Ron Paul . . . is always referred to as a libertarian, but many of his positions are at odds with that ideology. And he wants to abolish the federal income, estate, capital gains and gasoline taxes, which together make up about half of the U.S. government’s annual revenue. Which half of the government would he eliminate?”
Fox’s The Five segment, too, started out with a discussion of the media blackout and segued into a discussion of his statements criticizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and his general disdain for bureaucracy.
Could all this coverage be more pure and genuine? Could the media explore more earnestly the man and his politics, instead of starting from the superficial premise about why he didn’t get his share of media attention earlier? Yes. But then again, media coverage of other strong candidates could use such an upgrade.
The record is there: The media’s initial blackout of Ron Paul has turned into a publicity bonanza, one that has elevated public awareness of the candidate’s policies to perhaps unprecedented levels. We’ll see whether that awareness works to Paul’s advantage, or sinks him.