Election Coverage Goes All TMZ

It’s a familiar sight: Celebrity gets out of limo, and video camera-toting journalists swarm to capture every single movement — or preferably, misstep. From place to place, hour to hour, no moment is too minute; everything is recorded. Juicy footage is uploaded and shared across the world within minutes.

Think this is the sad saga of Britney Spears? Think again. Welcome to the new world of election coverage.

The New York Times today reports on network “off-air” or “embed” reporters — intrepid and typically young souls charged with following candidates cross-country while filing video and blog posts along the way. Candidates have always been hounded by the press, but with cheap cameras (or cell phones with cameras), broadband connections and a twenty-four hour news cycle, these embeds are making a big impact on our political process.

Economically, these embeds make sense for networks. It’s much cheaper to dispatch a twenty-something with ambition and a video camera than it it to send a full production crew. Heck, these embeds don’t even get air time, they just shoot what’s going on. And given the speed with which we gobble up news and spit it out for the next big story, who needs big production values?

But this constant spotlight is a mixed bag, according George Washington professor of media and public affairs Stephen Hess, who told The Times:

“Every camera reflects the opportunity for someone to see what’s going on with the election, which is a good thing,” he said. “And yet, what’s going on is now so staged, so that’s a bad thing. Neither is going to be reversed.”

Embeds may produce gems like former candidate Mitt Romney on a campaign stop referencing that relic of a song Who Let the Dogs Out while surrounded by African-American teens, but not every mistake merits elevation to public humiliation. I suppose this is the new status quo. Maybe Britney should run for office and we could kill two birds with one stone.

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