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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Uncovered Campaigns

New York’s print and broadcast media outlets collectively made in-kind contributions this spring to the re-election campaigns of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. House Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) by refusing to acknowledge the people who want their jobs.

Newspapers, radio, and TV stations, with few exceptions, boosted Senator Gillibrand and Rep. McCarthy by ignoring for months the three candidates who competed in the state’s Republican U.S. Senate primary election on Tuesday, June 26 as well as the two rivals who competed in the Republican and Conservative primary contests in New York’s 4th Congressional District (CD) on that same day.

Since you may not be aware of this, let me report that Wendy Long, a Manhattan attorney who had already secured the Conservative Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate, won the GOP’s nod last week to face off against Senator Gillibrand in November. Meanwhile, Nassau County Legislator Fran Becker (R-Lynbrook) was the choice of registered Republicans in the 4th CD to challenge Rep. McCarthy, although it appears as of this writing that Frank Scaturro, a lawyer who grew up in New Hyde Park, may have won a write-in campaign to become the Conservative Party’s nominee in the 4th CD. Legislator Becker was the Conservatives’ official choice.

In any political campaign, a candidate has two major ways to reach voters. The first is earned media. This is coverage the candidates generate for themselves by convincing reporters to cover their debates, scrutinize their public policy pronouncements, or assess the legitimacy of the attacks they make against another candidate. The second is paid media. This category includes things such as radio, TV and newspaper advertisements that are paid for out of the candidate’s campaign coffers.

The June 26 primaries were notable because there was little earned media, with NY1, New York City’s all-news cable channel broadcasting a U.S. Senate debate that was also carried on its Time Warner-owned sister station upstate, and barely any coverage at all of the Becker-Scaturro face-off at Hofstra University. Given that the media’s job is to inform people about matters impacting their lives, New York’s outlets cumulatively did a terrible disservice to its readers and viewers. They failed to cover or vet five credible people vying to represent the public in Washington, D.C. Three of the five currently hold elective office.

And I have to take a knock at the candidates, too. They should have known there would be a news blackout surrounding their campaigns. The New York media narrative goes something like this: Senator Gillibrand and Rep. McCarthy will be, and should be, easily re-elected. How dare anyone put forward a candidate to challenge a senator who has become the darling of MSNBC, or a Congresswoman who endured a terrible family tragedy nearly 19 years ago, even though she appears in her district with Big Foot-like frequency?

Knowing what they were up against, the GOP’s U.S. Senate and U.S. House aspirants needed to raise significant amounts of money and pay for their media time. It appears that all five candidates were underfunded. I’m a registered Republican who regularly casts ballots in primaries, and pays close attention to these matters, yet I neither saw nor read one media advertisement from any of them.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net