Media Can Do Better Telling The Campaign Story

USF students say the media covering political campaigns should look for positive stories, not just negative.


By Keli Sipperley and Rebecca Sitten

Special to News


TAMPA , Fla. (Oct. 25, 2010) – Three types of students milled around campus Monday night: those who knew, those who didn't and those who just didn't care.

The last Florida gubernatorial debate before the Nov. 2 election was held at the University of South Florida. Student government president Cesar Hernandez said attracting such an event was a goal during his campaign.

  "Part of my team's platform was to bring Tallahassee here," Hernandez said.

 The debate, which aired live on CNN's "John King, USA," was the second of a two-day series of debates held on campus, and it brought Democratic candidate Alex Sink and Republican candidate Rick Scott. The state's candidates for U.S. Senate squared off Sunday.

The Marshall Center was a hub of activity -- unlike Sunday's early morning debate -- but not all the students were aware that the nationally televised event was going on. And even if they had known, some said they would not have been interested.

"I've seen signs, but I haven't really paid attention to it," psychology major Michelle Shock said.

"Politics aren't really my thing," biology major Lacie Swan said.

Though their reasons for not attending varied, many of the students had something in common: Their lack of interest in politics stemmed from the mudslinging they say dominates the campaigns.

Election season focus is "all about how can I put the other candidate down so I can make myself look better," said Natalia Pena, a biology major.

"It's not even about the people anymore. It's just more about how much can we bash, how much dirt we can get on the air," said Juan Henry, a political science major.

Freshman Rayan Oueini, 18, said he would pay more attention to politics if the candidates weren't always taking digs at each other.  

"If they were just like ' Let me tell you the good things about me' instead of 'I'm gonna tell you everything bad about that guy,' " Oueini said.

Although some sat unaware in parts of the Marshall Center -- a few saying they hadn't heard about the debate -- hundreds filled the ballroom for the watch party.

"It was all over the place. They had signs all over campus," said Zac Addison, a management information systems major.

"We tried to do as much as we could," student government coordinator for multimedia Mandy Leetang said about promoting the debate on campus.

There were also the students who, despite signs, e-mails and professors' urgings, don't keep up with election season media.

"I'm never at home to watch the news. I'm always on campus," said Elliot Griffith, a chemistry major. "If anything big (happens), my parents tell me."

Some said they would be motivated to stay informed if the media changed.

The media need to be “more truthful. I think a lot of times they show all the negative things that go on, and I think a lot of times they overlook all the really good things going on in this country," Addison said.

"I just don't know why it has to turn into this huge gossip column," Leetang said. "If I really want that, I can just look at TMZ."

 Media coverage of candidates should "just stick with the facts," she said.

"We're seeing a lot of negative campaigning from the candidates, and we look at them as role models," Hernandez said.

Students want to know "what do (candidates) do to work together?" he said.