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The local Fox station did a good job covering the story as far as being thorough is concerned.  The initial story and reaction were covered, with exclusive footage detailing for viewers what happened between the woman from Moveon.org and the Rand Paul campaigner.  After reading the story and watching its counterpart, it becomes pretty clear what the superficial circumstances were regarding the event.  That is, because it was caught on film, viewers can see for themselves what happened.  At this point, it was not known, or at least not made known, why things happened the way they did.

In the first story, various viewpoints are given, which lends more credibility to it.  The man being charged with assault is quoted in the story, thereby giving his side of things.  The man apologized, but he said the camera angle made things look worse than they really were.  Snippets from press releases issued by candidates Rand Paul and Jack Conway are read also.

The second story does a better job of explaining what led up to the confrontation.  For one thing, when the tape is played, viewers can actually hear what is being said this time, instead of only being able to see what happened, like in the first story.  Also, the man accused of assault is interviewed, although he did not want his face shown.  He is able to explain what happened, and he contends that things looked worse than they really were.  The woman who was stepped on is interviewed, so both sides of the situation are expressed by those who took part in them.  Rand Paul, who is being supported by the accused man, spoke to Fox41 about the event, but Jack Conway did not appear on camera to speak about it.  Moveon.org released a statement that said it was appalled by what happened.

The third story again quotes the Moveon.org statement and in greater detail.  The same interview clip from the woman who was stepped on is played again.  A Rand Paul supporter was interviewed and her statements were played.  This story did not go into great detail about the event, and the accused man is not the focus.  Overall, the second story did the best job of giving fair coverage of both sides and getting across to viewers what happened and for what reasons.

Fox41 played the biggest role in this story’s national importance, because this station shot exclusive footage of it.  Since no other networks had their own footage, Fox41 had the market cornered for this story.  Every network and station had to rely on Fox41 for the footage at least.  The way this station chose to use the footage and disseminate it directly affected how the public perceived the events, what information was given to them, and how much air time would be given to the circumstances.  This station had control over how far this story would go and whether or not it attained national interest.

Law enforcement was aided by the video, because the man who was accused is easy to identify.  However, as it was stated in the first video, it was a misdemeanor, so the police could not go after and arrest the man.  The police could only charge the man with a crime, because they would have to be present and witness a crime firsthand to arrest him for a misdemeanor.  It was useful in allowing the police to do as much as they could in charging the man, however.

The potential effects on the election are wide ranging.  It is tough to gauge this, because politics is such a fickle thing, especially when it comes to voters.  It would not be surprising if this whole thing is put aside and voters see it as an unfortunate event that has no real bearing on the candidates or their qualifications.  If voters, specifically undecided voters, see it as an isolated incident that should not be held against either candidate, then it should not affect the outcome in any significant way.

There is always the possibility that voters will take what happened to heart and hold Paul directly accountable for the actions of a county campaign coordinator.  For some, it could be a reflection on who Rand Paul is and what he is willing to accept and tolerate if he is elected.  Viewers might take this event and extrapolate it, thereby expecting more of the same if Paul is elected.

It is probably most likely that there will be a balance between the two.  Some voters will brush off what happened, while others will castigate Paul for allowing his campaign coordinator to do something like this.  If the race is tight, this could have an impact, as Jack Conway will try to use this incident to his advantage.

I believe when incidents like this take place, the media needs to make sure all sides are covered, all pertinent information is disclosed, and whatever is disseminated is not editorialized.  This is a political issue, which means bias and opinions are inherently intertwined with the actual event.  If this incident took place at some other non political event, perhaps the coverage is not as thorough, the arguments are not as heated, and the story is not as important.  Since this happened a week out from the election, it becomes important to all potential voters.

I think both sides were covered fairly well, with opinions expressed from those involved directly and indirectly.  However, I could not help but think that the whole thing was being overblown.  I read the story before watching the footage.  When I read that the man had stomped on the woman’s shoulder and head, I expected her to be clinging to life or something.  I figured he must have done it repeatedly, and the woman is probably severely injured.  Instead, the reality was far less traumatic.  Stomped was a word used time and again, and I feel it is too strong of a word to use in describing this incident.

I felt that some of the people at the station, namely Bennett Haeberle, were leaning toward the woman’s side of how things played out.  People can see for themselves what happened and form their own opinions based on these observations without having an anchor subtly editorialize the story.  Perhaps it is just me, and my own bias is causing me to see things that are not there, but it felt like the reporting was covertly skewed in that direction.

Basically, I feel it is important to let the facts come to light, show people what happened, and try to be fair to all sides.  For the most part, I think this series of stories did that, but some things could have been done better.

 

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