US press pay scant attention to election

Media more focused on the mini-scandal of Phelps captured smoking a bong than on Tuesday's elections.

world newspapers 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
world newspapers 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Avigdor Lieberman may have made the front page of Sunday's New York Times, but if Tzipi Livni, Binyamin Netanyahu or Ehud Barak wanted similar attention in the US media, they should have considered manufacturing scandalous cell-phone camera pictures to get it. Mainstream American media outlets paid more attention to the mini-scandal that erupted after gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps was captured smoking a bong than to Tuesday's elections, despite the impact the results will have not just on the future of Israel but on the success of American policy in the region. The near-total absence on evening newscasts and newspaper front pages is particularly striking given the high level of coverage given to Operation Cast Lead, which was the third most-covered story in the American media last month - just after the economic crisis and the inauguration of Barack Obama. Since the cessation of fighting, stories about the economy and the government's efforts to stem the growing recession have eclipsed everything else, sending stories about Israel's election campaign to the back pages of the paper, if they appear at all, analysts said. "Assuming there's a clear result in the election and we know who the winner is, my guess is that it will be a page one story - but frankly it will have to compete with Tim Geithner and [the bank bailout]," said Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, referring to Obama's new Treasury secretary. "But on some level it's surprising how little coverage there's been - though there will probably be more coverage of the results and what it means for Obama's foreign policy goals," Jurkowitz told The Jerusalem Post. "He's said he wants to resolve the Israel-Palestinian issue, he's appointed [George] Mitchell - so these elections are not divorced from American foreign policy goals," he added. Yet, on election day, stories setting the stage for those results ran buried in the print media, while cable newscasts focused almost exclusively on events in Washington related to the economy. The same effect was evident even in some of the American Jewish press. The New York Jewish Week ran a story predicting a Likud victory "by default," but topped its Web site Tuesday with a story about the response of American Jewish groups to the recession, while the Los Angeles-based Jewish Journal didn't even mention the vote. The Forward newspaper ran wire copy on the election high on its Web site, paired with an analysis of how the election will affect Israel's relationship with Obama.