Ever since last week’s debate, the media has become over the top desperate. It’s full-on panic time and local outlets are getting the full-on bullhorn treatment from national outlets. It’s Mississippi’s version of the Kavanaugh hearings. High school yearbooks. People you’ve never heard of before suddenly being thrust in the media spotlight to say anything that helps the cause. Video clips. Out of context memories about this or that from folks that knew candidates decades ago. There’s nothing off limits. Anything that sells the story and advances the narrative is, unfortunately, for the next 48 hours, grist for the mill.
Hyde-Smith certainly kicked this frenzy into hyperdrive with her comments in Tupelo. They were undisciplined and not smart. But there’s a good chance that everything else that followed would have happened anyway. Joe Trippi is ostensibly calling the shots for Espy and it’s been the game plan all along to run the sort of campaign that energizes black voters much like the Doug Jones strategy in Alabama.
As an example of the latest frenzy, in the last 48 hours, a local tabloid, bless their hearts, penned an article that said that Hyde-Smith attended a “segregation academy” and went on to quote former state Democrat Chairman Rickey Cole who said Hyde-Smith “should not get a pass” for her attendance at a segregation academy, nor for later sending her daughter to one.
The media has taken that narrative and gone koo-koo-for-cocoa-puffs. Slate ran a piece on it. Bless their heart, MSNBC ran whole segments on it like this.
So far, only Emily Pettus in the MS press establishment has touched the “segregation academy” angle.
For the record, there are about 120 independent schools around the state that boast attendance of about 40,000 Mississippi students. As to the choice of high schools for their daughter, Brookhaven High School (which is public) is C rated and boasts an average ACT of 21 and a 72% graduation rate with under 40% proficiency in math. Brookhaven Academy, where Hyde-Smith daughter attended, features 98% college enrollment with an average of 25 on the ACT.
As a parent of two private school students, and a graduate of the same private high school, I can tell you that if someone wants to assail the decision of a parent to send their kids to a Christian centered school with high standards and demonstrable excellence in educational results (as opposed to the schools in the F rated school district I live in), go ahead and nail me to the cross. I’ve watched while the media and political elite in Mississippi who talk about the need for public school funding the most very quietly put their kids in private schools and no one says a word. Again, the “segregation academy” controversy that is in full swing in the national media coverage of the Mississippi Senate run-off is “made for TV”. It fits the narrative that anyone not from Mississippi would believe without batting an eye and is being stoked by those who care not one whit about Mississippi or the people who live here.
CNN also ran a story over the weekend about a 2007 resolution Hyde-Smith was one of the co-sponsors that honored the 92 year old daughter of a civil war soldier. The resolution passed the Mississippi legislature unanimously (with both black and white legislators of both parties).
While sitting in the media area during the Hyde-Smith vs. Espy debate the other night, national media figures sent to cover the race were absolutely flummoxed by what happened during the debate and the immediate aftermath. They were visually disturbed by the fact that Hyde-Smith generally stayed on offense and there were huddles and small conversations among them about what they’d do during the post-debate questions of the candidates.
However, when Senator Roger Wicker appeared on Senator Hyde-Smith’s behalf, you would have thought someone had insulted their mama. They were visibly agitated and the reason why they got mad was because Hyde-Smith not showing up messed with their program – namely, for their ability to be the story and grandstand on camera and play gotcha. I literally had two reporters come up to me and say, “Can you believe this? I got on a plane to come down here just to ask her questions tonight. Who does she think she is?”
That’s how they think folks. It’s about them. Not the story.
Post Debate Microphone Chasing
Ever since the debate, a few national reporters have been chasing Hyde-Smith around like Wile E. Coyote chased the Road Runner. Screaming questions, grandstanding, and literally running after her has been par for the course at campaign events.
Not an ideal exchange this Sat. night but nonetheless from #MSSEN–>
NBC: Could you clarify & articulate what you were apologizing for?
Hyde-Smith: If I hurt anybody’s feelings, if I hurt anybody’s feelings–you know, we’re just staying on the issues that are on peoples’ minds… pic.twitter.com/CxSPMzoFNy
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) November 24, 2018
Folks, this isn’t journalism or answer seeking. This is hunting. Hunting for clicks, eyeballs, ratings and money. It’s also hunting for a victim. They’re looking for someone they can roll. The journalism part exited the scene long ago.
On Wednesday morning, Mississippians will wake up. The election will be over. All of the local part time political reporters will go back to doing whatever it is they do when it’s not election time. All of the national reporters who have seemed breathlessly interested in Mississippi will do whatever cursory analysis or sign off reports or whatever gets their expense vouchers paid, and they’ll leave. Just like the Kavanaugh hearing, after the final vote was taken all of the breathless media coverage will just stop. Because the story will be over, regardless of how many people have been sullied, and they’ll move on to other stuff. Regardless of how many lies have been told or amplified.
And then it’ll still be us. Here. Hopefully trying to make Mississippi a better place.
Go vote folks. And then let’s get on with it.