Will local newscasts have a devastating impact on Democrats? If so here’s why.
Opinion by Joe Concha
We hear lots about media bias, particularly during campaign season. But “media” is a broad term, as it comes in many shapes and sizes.
As a whole, trust in the media is at an all-time low. But one part of the industry has not seen as sharp of a decline: local newscasts. A poll by the Knight Foundation finds that local news is trusted more than national news outlets by a 17-point margin. And local news will likely play a pivotal role in several races in states won by Joe Biden in 2020: New York, Pennsylvania and Oregon.
In deep-blue New York, the race for governor has gone from being an afterthought to a down-to-the-wire cliffhanger, with challenger Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) going from being down nearly 20 points to even with Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The Senate race in President’s Biden’s birth state of Pennsylvania has also seen a major shift to the GOP, as Dr. Mehmet Oz has erased a double-digit deficit against Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. The race is now a dead heat.
And Oregon (yes, Oregon), may be looking at its first Republican governor since 1987.
Crime is the main reason for these dramatic swings. In Zeldin’s case, he has seen the issue too up-close and personal: In July, a man was arrested after attempting to stab the congressman in the neck on stage at a campaign event. And in October, a drive-by shooting occurred right outside his Long Island residence while his teenage daughters were home.
Overall, in New York City alone, subway murders are at a 25-year high. Major crime is up 36 percent. Cashless bail laws that allow violent criminals back out onto the street only to commit crimes again is a large driver of this trend. Hochul, instead of declaring that she will end this ridiculous law in the name of public safety, continues to claim that the jury is out on whether or not cashless bail is working, and will wait until after the election.
Next door in Pennsylvania, rampant crime in its largest city has become so bad that Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was held in contempt recently for failing to cooperate with state lawmakers investigating his possible impeachment.
Why the impeachment talk? Because there were more murders in the City of Brotherly Love in 2021 than during any year in the city’s history. And it’s only gotten worse in 2022, where the city is on pace to break last year’s tragic record.
Oregon is one of the bluest states in the country. All statewide offices and congressional seats except one are occupied by Democrats.
But crime and homelessness in Portland and other cities is cutting across party lines. Its governor, Kate Brown, has the lowest approval rating of any Democratic governor in the country. The Republican looking to unseat Brown is Christine Drazan, who is borrowing the most effective question in modern political history from Ronald Reagan before his landslide victory in 1980.
“I ask Oregonians: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? If the answer is no, then the answer is change,” she has repeatedly asked on the campaign trail.
How’s all this playing at home? Well, New York is the nation’s number one media market. Philadelphia is number four. Portland is number 21. Regardless of rank, these three cities, like most, have robust local broadcast newsrooms and reporters on the ground. And their newscasts are on. A lot.
At ratings-winner WABC-TV in New York, for example, the channel offers 44 hours of newscasts per week. Most other stations in New York and Philly offer up about the same: Newscasts in the early morning, at noon, 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 11 p.m. That’s six to seven hours dedicated to the news, mostly local, per day.
And crime is front and center on residents’ television screens every day. Murders, shootings, assaults, smash-and-grabs, car jackings. And with cameras everywhere, whether it’s people filming on their smartphones or public webcams throughout a city, there’s more footage of such crimes than ever before. Beatings and robberies are captured and shared with viewers within hours. There’s never a premium on content. It’s seemingly Groundhog Day lately when it comes to murder scenes, interviews with families and neighbors of victims and crime stories in general.
But here’s where local news separates itself from most cable news programs: The absence of opinions from anchors or pundits.
Just watch your average local newscast regardless of where you live: The most basic tenets of journalism are most prevalent when presenting any story: who, what, when, where, why, how. Almost no point of view or loud talking head to push a narrative.
And it’s having a huge impact on the candidacies of Democrats such as Kathy Hochul, John Fetterman and Kate Brown.
Voters in New York, Pennsylvania and Oregon will make their voices heard on Nov. 8. Inflation and abortion and immigration and education will be big issues, of course. But crime may play the biggest role in deciding who wins many of these races. Local news will help shape the votes of those who are on the fence or otherwise would have stayed home.
That’s because, unlike most of the national media, local news is still a trusted brand mostly free of bloviating opinions and bias.
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