Was Gary Hart Right?

Gary Hart speaks at Cornell University, late 1987. Credits: Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons

Thirty years ago today, the way journalists cover politicians changed forever.

At the time, reporters had long considered politicians’ private lives off-limits.

But on May 3, 1987, the Miami Herald reported that Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart had spent part of the weekend at his townhouse with a young woman who was not his wife.

Sign Up for E-News

Hart was surprised by the story – in large part because the reporters in the 1980s did not generally venture into the private lives of public figures.

But as Rick Pearlstein wrote in a 2001 Columbia Journalism Review article, Hart felt the press should have been focusing on the more substantive public policy matters of the day, such as “the brutal Contra insurgency; abuses of the military industrial complex; corrupt unaccountability with public funds.”

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election – in which coverage often focused more on personality than policy – is it possible that Hart was right?

Clearly, greater transparency has had positive effects on the media and democracy, but with the growth of the Internet and social media, stories on personal matters are appearing with increasing frequency regardless of their impact on public policy.

For example, as vile as Donald Trump’s Hollywood Access comments were, how well did they speak to his ability to govern the nation? Would voters have been better served by more stories examining his leadership skills, management style and business practices?

Back in 1987 journalists struggled with whether to report on Hart’s personal life. They ultimately decided it was an important story to report– largely because it reinforced questions about Hart’s character.

Today’s journalists continue to struggle with difficult decisions regarding what to report about the private lives of public figures. In the 30 years that have passed since the Gary Hart story broke, the pendulum clearly has swung the other way. Perhaps, it may have even swung too far. Perhaps Gary Hart was right because when stories of substance take a back seat to shiny objects, voters are less informed about important public policy issues.

But a healthy democracy also requires a commitment from the electorate. Today, more resources than ever are available to help voters make informed and educated choices when they cast their ballots. Those resources include many well-researched and well-reported news stories on health care, education, the economy and other public policy issues.

To ensure a healthy democracy, voters need to choose to read more stories of substance and spend less time catching up on celebrity gossip, diet crazes and viral YouTube videos. If and when this happens, the pendulum may swing back to where it belongs.

 

 

 

 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

Greater Olean

Upcoming Events

Mon, June 26, 9:00 AM

campus, St. Bonaventure

Bona's Morning Zometool With Extended-Day STEM ...

Mon, June 26, 10:00 AM

Olean Public Library, Olean

Media Literacy

Education

Mon, June 26, 6:30 PM

Olean Public Library, Olean

20th Anniversary Celebration: 'Harry Potter and ...

Arts & Entertainment

People of Cleveland

Most people spend days, weeks or even months planning their ideal road trip. They pick the perfect destination, the perfect sights to see and make perfect Instagram posts.

I, on the other hand, spent two hours planning mine and picked my destination out of a cup.

Let me explain.

As part of a journalism course at St. Bonaventure University this spring, I was asked to pick the name of a ...

Bona’s Celebrates Historic Fundraising  Season for Annual Fund

June 17, 2017

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY– St. Bonaventure University posted its best year ever for The Bonaventure Fund, with alumni and friends donating more than $2.5 million and making the 2017 fiscal year the most successful in unrestricted annual giving in Bona’s nearly 160-year history.

Over 4,500 donors contributed gifts between June 1, 2016, and May 31, 2017.

“Our alumni, parents and ...

Cuba Council of Churches Presents Annual Songs of Faith, Hope, and Inspiration Concert

CUBA, NY -- The Palmer Opera House & Event Center will host the annual Songs of Faith, Hope, and Inspiration concert organized by the Council of Churches on June 15 at 6 p.m. Many local talented musicians will perform uplifting and hopeful music.

The Cuba Council of Churches is a fellowship of local community churches working together to minister to the needs of the community. The ...

Dr. Douglas Pisano Named Dean of St. Bonaventure’s School of Allied Health

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY - Dr. Douglas Pisano has been named the founding dean of St. Bonaventure University’s new School of Allied Health. He begins work June 19.

Pisano was most recently (2013-2016) the vice president for Academic Affairs and provost at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, with campuses in Boston, Worcester, Mass., and Manchester, ...