Citizens are often heard to grumble “throw them all out” but when voters get to the voting booth, it seldom happens. As I discussed two weeks ago, incumbent politicians have many advantages over any challenger and most incumbents quickly learn how to use them. Not the least of their advantages is the ability to manipulate local TV news (especially in small markets) to get lots of free exposure that their opponents never receive.
For example: on April 24, Congressman McKinley was able to get a couple of minutes of free publicity on the local channel 7 news. The news story, that McKinley’s questioning of Mark Zuckerberg resulted in Facebook taking down some drug ads, had occurred two weeks prior to this interview and had certainly received significant local and national coverage. At this point, however, the story was old news but it didn’t matter as the local reporter treated it as though it had recently happened. Why? I wrote at the time that local TV news is partial to cheap and easy-to-do stories and this was a good example. Here’s what likely happened:
McKinley's office called channel 7 and told them that the congressman was in town and would love to talk to a reporter about his Facebook questions. A short interview followed and with the already existing background and video ready-to-go, a news segment was quickly created.
Whether it was actually “news” was probably irrelevant -- channel 7 had material to insert in their newscasts. Yesterday, McKinley apparently did the same thing with WOWK (Huntington), which like WTRF, is a part of the four channel Nexstar state network which airs West Virginia news daily at 5:30 PM. Watch as WOWK’s political reporter, Mark Curtis, lobs McKinley two easy questions: why McKinley believes Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and, again, what's McKinley’s take on the results of his questions to Mark Zuckerberg almost a month ago.
I have seen Curtis during the legislative session ask state legislators some pointed questions, but here he does nothing but set-up McKinley. For example, the first thought that jumped into my mind when I read that six of Trump’s congressional supporters (including Evan Jenkins - see previous post) were nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize is that giving him the award would be incredibly premature – that nothing had changed other than the two Koreas had agreed to meet. At least wait, I thought, until something concrete comes of it. Instead of bringing up the obvious, Curtis lets McKinley ramble for 40 seconds using “if” to begin four different sentences about the Korean situation.
Curtis’ concluding words fit nicely with what has preceded them: “stop by and see us anytime you’re in Charleston, okay?” McKinley was probably thinking “as long as you continue to ask me softball questions” as he answered, “I’ll do that.”