Last week, an Ohio plumber, cited by John McCain and mentioned some two dozen times during the Oct. 15 presidential debate, became an instant star. And while that star was quickly fading, it burned bright enough from Oct. 13-19, to make the saga of Joe the Plumber the No. 3 campaign storyline of the week (filling 8% of the election newshole) according to the Campaign Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.Joe the Plumber was a bone thrown out by McCain to distract the fickle media and to encourage them to redirect focus away from the financial crisis to someone they obviously found more interesting.
The final and perhaps most combative presidential debate of the campaign was the No. 1 campaign storyline (at 18% of the news hole). And even though both candidates produced new economic proposals costing an estimated $100 billion or so, coverage of their response to the financial meltdown barely edged out the plumber (at 9% of the coverage).
As it turned out, Plumber Joe's first name is Samuel and he is not a licensed plumber. But his emergence as a celebrity seems reflective of a media narrative that has alighted on some unlikely players, in this case perhaps in the hopes of a twist in a campaign narrative that seems, at least in the media's mind, to be hardening.
The coverage is also taking on an increasingly tactical lens in the final days. Last week, attention to tactics and strategy -- including McCain's invocation of the plumber to represent the working man -- accounted for 26% of the newshole, making that general theme the biggest component of the week's election coverage.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Turns out the emergence of Joe the Plumber as an instant star turned out to be more about the media's "hopes" of softening up their perception of a "hardening" campaign narrative about the financial crisis (which favors Barack Obama and Democrats):