Monday, July 28, 2008

As Far As The US Media Goes, The Bush Presidency Is Already Over

There's still six months to go before the presidency of George W. Bush comes to an end, and it would appear (today at least) that Bush may leave office with a growing peace taking root in Iraq, and some solid signs of progress in changing the course of Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The mainstream American media, infected by Obamania, could care less :

President Bush - remember him? He has long ceased to be a hot story. Across all forms of mainstream media, news coverage of the president has fallen significantly this year.

The drop-off has big implications for Bush, whose ability to influence the public debate is weakened by less exposure, and for the country, which ends up with lighter scrutiny of the nation's highest office.

The nation is tired, worn down by wars and a weak economy. Much of the country seems ready to move on, even though Bush remains relevant thanks mainly to his veto power and his command over the military.

For the reporters still following Bush, the big stories still happen, but far less often. TV correspondents find it harder to get on the air, photographers doubt whether their pictures will get any play, and writers often see their work buried in the back of the newspaper.

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain make news every time they speak, a luxury of attention once afforded to Bush. He used it to his advantage as a candidate in 2000 and an incumbent in 2004.

Now he watches as Obama's trip to the Middle East and Europe gets coverage that seems, well, presidential. Many of the people who long have covered Bush have abandoned the White House post for the presidential campaign. When it's over, they may return, when the White House beat is deemed juicy again.

Over the first four months of the year, Bush got about half as much coverage on nightly network broadcasts as he did in 2007, according to an analysis by Lichter's center. Bush's coverage on major network news is running more than 60 percent below what he got during his first seven years in office.

More broadly, Bush has faded in the primary places people get their news: major newspapers, TV networks, cable TV news, radio and online sites. The nonpartisan Project for Excellence in Journalism, which conducts an ongoing analysis of those media, found the presidential campaign is consistently dominating coverage.

While McCain and Obama run for president, Bush actually is president. He is still making or influencing decisions of enormous consequence.

His administration is aggressively trying to settle conflicts with Iran and North Korea. Largely on his terms, Bush got legislation to extend spying on suspected terrorists and to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will be in charge for almost six more months, media attention or not.

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