The 2007-2008 Essay Contest:
Honorable Mention

High School Division

Zachary Baum
Paul J. Gelanas Jr. High School
East Setauket, NY
Grade 9

For decades, it appears as though the media has played a critical part in deciding who will be the next person to steer our country in the right direction. The media has always watched and reported every step those seeking office make. Yet, it also appears as though the media has heavily influenced our voters. Perhaps this has not been in the best interest of our country. The election of 2008 will be one of the most fundamental in the history of America because of the issues at hand. Our country needs to deal with the climate crisis, terrorism, universal health care, homeland security, abortion, same sex marriage, the economy, preparation for natural disasters and much more. All of these issues will be on the forefront of the national agenda.

Although many factors will lead up to who will be elected President, the media's influences may be the strongest. It often appears as though the media is too focused on who sounds the best or who looks the best and not on who has the best ideas. It often looks like a popularity contest. Shouldn't it be the American people's responsibility to choose the right person? They should be able to base their decisions on their beliefs and values. There should be fair and balanced reports about all candidates. The journalists and news reporters should not be stating their personal opinions and influencing the American public with their power unless they state that they are in an editorial way. Most of us have heard the media use slogans like "the most fair and balanced name in news" and "the most trusted name in political news." These slogans are downright false. Yet after hearing these statements repeated, over and over, it becomes what many believe as truth and fact. Is this a form of brainwashing?

I realize that our country is based on many freedoms, including the freedom of speech and the freedom of press. The fact that the media can report and expose the corruption and intolerances of our politicians seeking office is vital. Yet, our founding fathers intended our Constitution to be amended when needed. Keeping this in mind, there needs to be more guidelines and penalties for media organizations that cross the line and are not reporting unbiased accounts. In addition, the media needs to show tolerance for different cultures, religions and backgrounds. Suggesting that Mitt Romney, may not be a good President because of his religious faith, as a Mormon, should not be tolerated. Implying that our country may not be ready for an African American President, or a female President, as in the cases of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is unjustifiable. When the media judge's candidates based on religion, gender, race they do cross the line.

Many news organizations, such as Fox News, CNN, NBC and CBS appear biased against certain political parties. Has anybody noticed that Fox News puts more Republicans on their shows than Democrats and CNN puts put more Democrats on than Republicans? This is simply un-American. As Barack Obama said at The Democratic Convention in 2004, "We are not red states or blue states. We are the United States. There is not a conservative America or a liberal America. There is the United States of America." Obama continued to say, "There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America - there's the United States of America." The media needs to change. Somebody needs to step up to the plate and introduce legislation giving penalties to news organizations that are bias against any group or individual. The American people must open their eyes and ears and realize that they are being misled and swayed by the way the media is reporting. Changes will occur when the American people voice their concerns over this matter and are no longer willing to accept this type of journalism.

Katie Burke
Decorah High School
Decorah, IA
Grade 12

Many people find politics to be a waste of time simply because it's too drab or complicated. The media absolves this by making it simple. People have no interest in a presidential candidate's complicated health care plan because it's either boring or is over their head. Instead, the media will talk about the basics of a candidate, such as his/her background, race, gender, religion, etcetera. On the surface, the media is at fault for this because it tends to cater to the whims of the public, but at the heart of the matter it's the fault of the voters because the media is simply supplying the demand.

Many children and adults spend the majority of their time sitting in front of the television or searching the Internet. In recent years, the advances of technology in our everyday lives have lead to a higher and higher dependency upon electrical forms of entertainment. With the increased accessibility of the Internet via laptop computers and portable devices, the media can be accessed almost anywhere, anytime. As a result of technology and the growth in popularity of certain magazines and newspapers, the media has cemented its spot as commonplace.

Therefore, the media holds a very influential roll over the bulk of the population. Often times, the media doesn't necessarily report upon the facts, but what it feels produces a good story. This can lead to sensationalism or simply glossing over what's important in favor of something of greater interest. It also tends to cater too much to the public's interests. It holds large power over the ultimate outcome of the election. For starters, if a candidate never gets exposure in the media, the amount of votes he/she receives will be minimal. The media also has a large impact over the image of a candidate.

Candidates are often portrayed differently within the media depending upon the source. News reports are often slanted and one-sided. The image that a media source chooses to portray of a candidate is not completely correct and should not be endorsed by the public. A news reporter could put spin on a Republican's candidates pro-war stance by saying the candidate is in favor of sending our young men to slaughter, thus creating a violent and negative image.

The media has always paid a large amount of attention to the morals and religion of a presidential candidate; however, often times religion plays into major campaign issues such as abortion or gay marriage; therefore, it makes since to report upon it. Many people feel that the religion, morals, and convictions of his/her selected candidate is important because they feel they can trust the candidate more. Many people opted to vote for George W. Bush in 2004 simply because they felt he was a candidate more in tune with God and religion. However, the media does put emphasis upon religion in some cases where it is unwarranted, one example being the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 over the initial media outcry against a Catholic president.

Race and gender of candidates has become the media's favorite exploitation during this current 2008 Presidential Election. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson were able to receive much of the spotlight of the democratic caucuses simply for being a woman, an African American, and a Hispanic man respectively. This continues to help them rather than hurt them like many speculated it would. The media's focus has served to overshadow these candidates' comprehensive plans for important campaign issues such as healthcare, the war, and the current energy crisis. The media's portrayal of Barack Obama has made him known to most Americans solely as the potential first minority president instead of a candidate fighting to improve America's reputation overseas. Hillary Clinton, instead of a candidate aiming to strengthen the middle class, is simply just a women running for president. In fact, many people have sworn allegiance to Hillary Clinton because she is woman, thus ignoring the issues.

The media plays much too large a role within the electoral process; however, I believe it's a necessary evil. If it weren't for the media, no one would know who Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, or John Edwards are. They wouldn't know what the campaign issues are or whose running. Some wouldn't even be aware the electoral process was taking place. The media needs to reexamine itself. When people decide to vote for Hillary Clinton purely because she is a woman, news reporters aren't doing their job to educate America to make its best decision. The media is needed to get the word out, but it does not adequately perform its responsibly. Instead, it chooses to tell the public what it wants to year, rather than what it should and needs to hear. Truthfully, the problem lies within the voter pool. Voters need to reconsider what they look for in a leader and what issues they feel passionate about. They need to take the time to become educated on the candidates rather than let the media choose what they learn for them.

Melody Condon
Berthoud High School
Berthoud, CO
Grade 11

We gather around the radio to listen to the presidential debate. All is quiet in the house except for the crackling speakers; the candidates' steady and persuasive voices fill our ears. We listen as they're asked question after question about foreign policy, health care, the economy. We find ourselves nodding in agreement to one candidate's steady argument. The other's words are somewhat unsatisfactory. We know whom to vote for this year, because he knows what he's talking about and we can tell from his persistence that he could run our country.

Now fast-forward about half a decade. The situation is very different:

Every day, we are plagued by the relentless media. This candidate visits fast-food restaurants. This candidate volunteers at the hospital. Look at this candidate's face; doesn't he look trustworthy? Vote for him. This candidate's tie clashes with his suit. Don't vote for him. Watch late-night TV and read political cartoons to discover which candidate has the least jokes made about him.


Is America ready for a black president? A female president? A Mormon president? How does your gender/race/religion affect your views? Do you think America will vote for you?

The media's growth has been helpful to today's society in many ways. We can use all we see and hear to make more informed decisions about the candidates. Unfortunately, though, the media also seems to have become obsessed with appearance. Is a political candidate's appearance really important? I believe that it's much more important to determine a candidate's personality and views than to look at their skin pigmentation. Though upbringing and religion may indeed have a genuine effect on the candidate's beliefs and decisions, race and gender should not be scrutinized to the extreme that they are today.

The U.S.'s upcoming election in particular brings some of these issues to the forefront. There are those who will vote or avoid voting for Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama simply because of their gender or race. Really, though, people should be more focused on what the candidate can bring to the country and what they have done in the past to prove themselves to the voters. In debates and on talk shows, the questioners tend to focus the majority of their energy on asking questions about and mentioning the superficial things the media has brought up.

The media, in a way, is healthy for the political process. The further scrutiny on political figures may make them realize that they can't get away with lies. Still, society's obsession with appearance makes the more important things about people fade into the background. A candidate should be voted for because of their platform, not because of the way they look. What can be changed about the media's sometimes-unhealthy influence? The only thing that can fix the situation is the voters' decision to overlook the unimportant, superficial aspects of the candidates and focus on those aspects that will have a great effect on the country if they are elected.

Ally Huang
Eastview High School
Apple Valley, MN
Grade 12

When he appeared on television for his 1960 presidential debate, Richard Nixon, still recovering from campaign exhaustion, looked sickly and seemed passive throughout the whole debate. On the other hand, his opponent John Kennedy appeared assertive and confident not to mention tan. It was the first televised presidential debate, and people had initially believed that television would only facilitate the electoral process, not change it. However, polls taken after the debate found that those who watched the debate believed that Kennedy clearly won while those who listened to it on the radio thought that Nixon had obviously won. This debate was considered a huge turning point in the election, and Kennedy ended up being elected 35th president of the United States.

It cannot be said that he television was the primary factor in Kennedy's victory, but it is clear that it played a major role. Since that fateful 1960 debate, the media has expanded significantly, and with such technology such as the Internet, information about presidential candidates are able to reach out to many voters. However, even though the quantity of information is increasing, the quality isn't necessarily following. Society seems to pay more attention to scandals and physical appearances over more pertinent details, such as positions and perspectives and the media is picking up on that. Increasingly, we are hearing stories about the candidates' personal lives rather than their political lives. It should not be like this. The role of the media in the electoral process should not be to entertain the voters; it should be to inform them about the political aspects of the elections.

Not only is the media focused on race, religion, or gender, it also unconsciously or consciously plays in role in presenting the candidates' physical appearances to the voters: It traces back to that 1960 debate where Nixon was clearly less attractive than Kennedy, giving him a disadvantage in the election. A study by Harvard University strengthens this fact: many people were found to vote based on gut instinct, relying on factors such as physical appearance. Media undoubtedly contributes to this fact, as image of the candidates are everywhere television, the Internet, etc. This however, is detrimental to the voting process, as it means a good looking candidate with weak politics may dominate over a less attractive candidate who is more qualified to lead the country. Take the example of FDR according to historians, it was lucky he was elected before the advent of the television because otherwise, Americans would have never voted for a man in a wheelchair. While this doesn't seem to be a significant issue in the current election, media nevertheless contributes to it, altering voters' perspectives of the candidates.

Worse still is the fact that the candidates have picked up on this fact and ran with it. Many of them are taking the factor that makes them different and making it into a focal point of their campaign in order to comply with the voters' subconscious biases. Barack Obama has been making appearances with Oprah, likely to solidify the minority vote. Does associating with her make him a more qualified president? No, but the media's sensationalization of the story does significantly influence voters. Likewise, Clinton is now touring with her mother in an attempt to target the female vote. It's understandable that they are doing this in order to adapt to the media, but this only furthers the problem by giving the media even more to buzz about.

Is there an easy solution to this? No. The media cannot be restricted, due to the freedoms of press and speech. The best way to break of this media cycle is to have one candidate explicitly declare why voters should only focus on political qualifications, and perhaps, if done often enough, the others will follow. Idealistic as this solution may be, it could just work and set the electoral process back to what it should be about: politics.

Rachel A Johnson
Mason Street School (Homeschooled)
McClure, OH
Grade 10

The media are too obsessed with a candidate's religion, race, and gender. They discuss these things a great deal more than they discuss where the candidate stands on the issues. For example, in the current election the media have been preoccupied with Hilary Clinton being a woman, Barack Obama being African-American, and Mitt Romney being a Mormon. The media have discussed whether Obama is "black enough" (apparently being college educated and using proper grammar means you're not actually African-American, at least in the opinions of some), and that his ancestors came from Kenya after slavery was abolished, instead of being slaves. The press made a huge fuss over whether anyone would actually vote for Clinton, whether she'd be a good president, and even about her wearing feminine outfits, simply because she's a woman! However, the media have yet to focus that much on where the candidates stand on the important issues: global warming, the Iraq war, the War on Terror, health care, fair wages, the crime rate, improving the foster care system, the soaring costs of receiving a college education, etc... When there are so many issues that our next president will need to deal with, why are the media focusing on trivialities? We, the citizens, need to know where the candidates stand on the issues, so we can elect someone who will deal with the issues the way we want them to! How are we supposed to elect a competent president when we can't find out anything other than their sex, skin color, and beliefs?

The media play a very important role in our elections. Many people do not research the candidates on their own; they just go by what the media have to say. Therefore, if the media decide that they don't care for a candidate, that candidate has an extremely slim chance of winning the election, even if they are the best person for the office. The media create a persona for each candidate; for example, thanks to the media, now when people hear the names Hilary Clinton or John Kerry they automatically think of the words cold, arrogant, and aristocratic. If the media decide that they do care for a candidate, they can change the outcome of the election, which influences the election a lot. Unfortunately, many elections come down to whether people like the candidate, instead of who would be the best president. In addition, the media are the fastest way for citizens to receive information on a candidate's stance on the major issues. However, regrettably, in many instances the coverage on the issues is little to none. The papers and news stations would rather print or air reports on what the candidates were wearing that day. When the issues do receive coverage, the political leaning of the papers or stations involved often greatly distorts the articles published, so the articles aren't always entirely accurate.

The media ought to be required to report only facts in articles about the candidates, instead of opinions. That way, no matter what the political leanings of each particular station or paper, the citizens receive fair and balanced reports about each candidate. In addition, the papers shouldn't print an article about any of the candidates without including at least one paragraph about the candidate's perspective on an issue. That way, even if they still focus most of their attention on worthless factors, such as the candidates' race, gender, and religion, there is at least some reporting about the actual issues! Moreover, the candidates need to change their campaigning a little. If they gave each news outlet a document stating their stance on each issue, in easy to understand language, and then remained constant in their stance, instead of changing it, the media would be able to print those documents for the citizens to read. The citizens would then be able to compare the perspectives of the candidates, and elect whoever is best for the job. As it is now, the media often don't present an accurate portrayal of each candidate's opinions, and even when they do, the candidates often change their perspective, which makes trying to decide who to elect very difficult. The media do focus on trivialities too much, and the issues too little, affecting our elections negatively. However, the candidates are partly to blame for that, because with them not clearly stating their perspectives on the issues, and not sticking with those perspectives, they don't allow the media to report on the issues as often as they should. Since the media want to report something about each of the candidates, this leads to the media obsessing over religion, gender, and race, just so they have something to report!

Nicole Staton
Millard North High School
Omaha, NE
Grade: 12

The United States media is excited about the candidates for the upcoming 2008 election: a black man, a woman, and a Mormon. But that's exactly the problem; the media is focusing more on their labels rather than the issues they stand for. Mitt Romney addressed his Mormon religion before the United States rather than explaining his beliefs towards abortion or gay marriage, neglecting serious issues in favor of pleasing the media's questions. The media is also focusing on Barack Obama--his race and his terrorist-sounding name trumping all issues. And CNN had the audacity to report that Obama's casual look is dangerous, appearing too much like Iranian president Ahmadinejad's. But the media is also focusing on Hillary Clinton, not the person behind the name, but rather the fact she is a woman. Her plans for healthcare have been swept aside in the media's struggle to report about her as a woman and the role Bill Clinton plays in her campaign.

It would be a lie to say the media does not have a strong impact on presidential elections. For better or worse, it is the media that influences the decisions of thousands of Americans throughout the United States. But few have the energy to scourge through reliable articles, reading about a candidate's issues, or watch television debates, maneuvering through political jargon. The media could shape the mind of a voter based on race, gender or religion without ever having once discussed issues, a reality that worries me as a voter and a citizen of the United States. Voters should be educated on a potential president's stances and views instead of blindly electing the person that will lead the United States into the future.

The media has a strong obligation towards the people of the United States, giving them facts so that they may vote for the next president, their leader, the person that will, directly and indirectly, influence their lives. The media has a responsibility, and at present, it is ignoring that responsibility, making light of people's lives and the presidential candidates themselves. Everyone needs a few laughs, a few relaxed moments, but no one can make an informed decision based on a candidate's appearance, or the fact they're a woman. The media must evolve into a credible source or face the consequences of an ill-educated community.

Honing the media into a credible source is a difficult task, however. No one can regulate what the media does and does not report on. With regulation follows a weaker democracy, and that is exactly what the United States needs to avoid. But what the United States prides itself on almost as much as a democratic society is that fact that it's a capitalist state. Consumers have the ability to choose what continues to exist and what falls into inexistence. Viewers must consciously choose to watch credible sources for their news and express their dissatisfaction when standards are not met. Along with consumers, however, candidates should advocate more serious news, and petition that their views and beliefs be broadcasted rather than lesser aspects of their lives.

The media should report on a candidate's views and the plans they have developed that will potentially lead the United States into the future. Without the media's accurate reporting, voters could elect their next president based on minor facts instead of issues that will influence lives. The media should be set to standards by consumers and expected to perform to those standards. All sources of media are gifts that relay information, but contorted as it is now and that gift can become a curse to every citizen of the United States.

Crystal Stone
Pottsgrove High School
Pottstown, PA
Grade 9

Media, Ignorance and the Presidential Election

While passing advertisements on the highway, I began to read them out of boredom. Real estate agencies painted the asphalt with their success stories. Dental institutions showed people with perfectly straight teeth and white smiles. Psychology centers drew wonderful sketches of happy families in attempts to persuade the dysfunctional family to turn towards them. Although to me the billboards seemed so unreal the pictures, slogans, fonts, and colors all intrigued me. I began to ponder the impact that the portrayal of anything, whether news stories or free market advertisement, has on my decisions...

Forms of news media intrigue and influence not only me but people in America every day. Magazine pictures and newspaper articles litter grocery stores checkout aisles and shelves. Most major web portals or browsers have a page of news. Radio stations broadcast world affairs. Many television channels' devotion also lies in disseminating news. Media infuses my society, becoming a catalyst for both major and insignificant choices made daily. Media is just like advertisements; it appeals to its audiences' senses whether conscious or subconscious. Unfortunately, this is not without the pollution of prejudice. Most news media is biased because successful free market media is created to satiate its audience with what it wants to hear. The average person has neither the time nor the desire to analyze their sources to make wiser decisions, especially when at first glance the media answers the question that is most pressing on their mind. The key then, to solving the problem of biased media, is education.

An ignorant society will judge either product or person portrayed through media by its preconceived notions and stereotypes. This does not just pertain to things such as the brand of butter to buy but also to the most momentous decision a country makes: the electing of an official to govern the country for a specified term.

Media in America attempts to portray candidate views on important issues but it does acknowledge race, gender and religion of candidates, too. The problem is, our society lacks background on the presented issues; therefore, they are unable to come to educated conclusions about imperative concerns facing the world right now. Rather, they simply stick to the stereotypes they have adopted and the prejudice topics that captivate their attention. Moreover, most Americans are too busy to notice or are simply politically apathetic. Due to this, they look at the first thing that hits their retina. The media is not the problem; the problem is the people.

Media has always focused on the race of candidates because the public has strong feelings about it. Today there is a candidate running for president of African descent named Barack Obama. There was uproar in the media recently on Barack Obama's supporter, Oprah Winfrey. She is a highly praised American of the same race as him. This made the media cover the public's jump to conclusions about her motivations. One news paper went as far as saying that "Oprah sends a message to all American women that it is OK not to vote for Hillary and one to African-Americans that they need to vote for Obama." Media found a way of criticizing the supporter and the race at the same time.

For the first time in American history, a woman is a presidential frontrunner, making gender a topic of interest. ABC News even published an article entitled, "Hillary Clinton Hopes Country is Ready for Female President". Even in my school, one of the ninth grade Civics classes had a debate on America's readiness for a female president. The boys pulled out statistics on women's intelligence quotients compared to male's intelligence quotients. They found a statistic stating that women's intelligence quotients are generally 3 6/10 points lower than males. Although that may or may not be true, when you look at leaders in history, some women have been effective. Margaret Thatcher is one example. Although outside skeptics may have criticized her, she was in office for 11 years and highly praised.

Religion has always been a topic receiving much attention from the media and the electors in America. Just a week ago, Mitt Romney obtained publicity for his speech on his Mormon faith. One newspaper said Mitt Romney was "vying to become the first Mormon president". The same newspaper said that he decided to "give a speech focused on his faith and the role of religion in politics because the subject is of interest..." In reality, although the speech did mention his faith, he told America, "I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith." Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, is in agreement with Romney. Mike Huckabee, while answering a question on his belief in creationism, said, "It's interesting that that question would even be asked to a person running for president. I am not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth grade science book, I am asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States." The presidential candidates have the same view when it comes to their religion and their ability to run the country. They all believe that their religion have nothing to do with their ability to be president.

Americans need to know what political qualities a potentially strong leader possesses. Americans need to know what issues have the most importance and that race, gender and religion are not some of them. Look at Hitler. He was elected in Germany for his charisma. People were desperate and elected him through their ignorance. The result was a world in turmoil. The effects of ignorance are devastating. Although I think that media plays a part in the electoral process, I know that education, or lack thereof, plays a larger role. What is our population to say with the rights they gained from our forefathers if they are not educated enough to think critically and know what to say?

Jessica Tatar
Waubonsie Valley High School
Aurora, IL
Grade 12

I'll be eighteen in April, so I'll be able to vote in next year's presidential election. Given this incredible privilege, I'll have to be able to make an informed and educated decision. Yet even at this point in my life, I still don't even know which political party matches most closely with my own views. Short of doing hours of research on my own time, I'm left trusting not only my government teacher, but the media. I can't vouch for the press, but all we talk about in Traditional Government regarding presidential candidates is that Giuliani is a divorcee and that Romney is Mormon. Although the televised debates at least give an attempt to cover the issues on which citizens are supposed to be voting, they too promote the importance of religion, race, and gender as important qualities equal to political views and beliefs. Personally, I believe that the media places too much value on these arbitrary traits.

The problem with the present is that society places too much meaning on things like race or religion, when they should be focusing on a person's political beliefs, or what they're going to do once they've been elected to public office. However, what the media chooses to share with the nation is only the beginning of the problem. The majority of Americans not all, by far, but many are not educated as they should be. Instead of researching and looking up information for themselves, they lazily allow the media to make all decisions for them. They blindly swallow information shared on television and in the newspaper, usually without doubting or confirming. When a reporter claims that a candidate will be too liberal for a President because of a past divorce, the average American will agree, and probably not support that candidate. Because of this, the media plays a much larger role in the presidential election than they should. The media is expected to have an opinion, but it is not the job of the press to form decisions for the people of America. Although the media is at fault, they can only take so much of the blame.

I believe the media does focus too much on matters of otherwise little importance. The fact that Barack Obama would be the first black President or that Hillary Clinton would be the first female one should not matter. They're both people who are hoping to make an impact on the world, and neither they nor the country should use demographics as a reason to support or not support them. Bill Clinton is very proud of the fact that if his wife wins he'll be the first First Man I don't think that this is pertinent to the election. What is important is what HRC or Barack will do about the war in Iraq, or with the American economy so that the US dollar will stop losing value, or regarding state positions on the death penalty, abortion, and assisted suicide. Whether someone is Mormon or not should not be a reason to elect him.

Jordyn Wilson
Petoskey High School
Petoskey, MI
Grade 12

The Role of the Media in the Presidential Campaign

The media is the glue that holds our global society together. Importance of the media is rather underestimated until one imagines a media-free world. Gradually the media has degenerated into a medium consisting of mostly entertainment rather than a source of information. Many of the news programs found on TV are largely for entertainment. The newspapers may have retained most of their integrity, but studies show fewer people are reading them in preference of visual media. Kids, the future voters of our country, rely on television and online visual media as the primary source of political information.

So what kind of information is available about the 2008 presidential election on TV? Political TV shows have come to devote most of their time to covering irrelevant issues characterizing the candidates themselves. Recently on Hardball, a significant amount of time was spent discussing Hillary Clinton's laugh. The Colbert Report, which primarily satirizes politics and the media, aired a debate over Barack Obama's blackness, and as an extension criticized the amount of coverage such topics have obtained. Anyone who is more interested in sit-corns or soaps is still exposed to information of the presidential campaign too. The political TV commercials provide an entirely biased argument for the qualifications of their candidate, and usually promote the candidates' superficial qualities, briefly advertising their stance on our country's issues. Even the newspapers have conformed to covering irrelevant information on gender and race rather than focusing on the issues. The Washington Post has issued articles concerning Barack Obama's black authenticity, and questioning the motive behind the timing of Hillary's cleavage exposal.

Every candidate wants to win. Each candidate therefore tries to reach out to as many voters as possible, which often means downplaying their stance on controversial issues. The media's main concern, as is with all corporate ventures, is making money. The quest for publishing the truth has been somewhat abandoned in favor of profitable infotainment. It's as if the news media has taken a wrong turn down Hollywood Boulevard and has yet to return to the path of credibility.

In order to retain the American public's diminishing attention span, the media must focus on these superficial issues with the candidates themselves. The most discussion over the current presidential election is about the effect on our country of having our first female president or our first black president.

The ideological diversity of candidates is being crowded out by ethnic and gender diversity. This is partly due to a media that prefers to ignore perhaps radical, but innovative ideas in favor of advertising racial and ethnic diversity. Candidates like Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, and Dennis Kucinich are considered standard in terms of race and gender, and are therefore given less coverage. The growing media industry has also come to be mostly concerned with attaining viewers, and people seem eager to watch or read the outrageous yet unproductive publications about race, gender, and religion. The media focuses too much on these subjects rather than the candidates' perspectives on the issues.

The media has a huge influence on the outcome of the election. Cable television, and Internet websites like YouTube are growing industries, and a majority of our population has access to the newspaper. Unfortunately, a large part of our population isn't really interested in the election, which results in a poorly informed public. Because people spend a small amount of time researching political candidates on their own, any political information widely shown on TV greatly impacts how people vote. As we've seen with Howard Dean, a minute-long video clip can break a campaign. The media has this great power in choosing what to show the people, and how long to cover it. This power is derived partially from the individuals' lack of interest in thoroughly researching candidates before voting. With all the coverage on race and gender in the media, people conclude that their choice is between elevating the status of women or blacks, or keeping the government how it is: dominated by white males. We need to readjust the focus towards the issues of our country.

The role of the president is to make executive decisions for our country. Our real concern should be for the candidates' stance on the issues, and how they plan to resolve them. We are choosing the person best suited to make decisions for our country, and gender and race are irrelevant. In order to readjust the focus we need to make it easy for people to get the facts. People have resorted to voting blindly in terms of political party, gender, or race. One suggestion would be a federally funded broadcast TV channel dedicated to current issues. This channel would be freely available to candidates during election season. This isn't a comprehensive solution, however, because simply offering the channel doesn't guarantee people will watch it. Besides degeneration in the media, we need to address people's decline in interest. Instituting some type of program in schools to inform students about current political perspectives would aid in encouraging an avid interest in political issues. Beginning at the middle school level, the social studies curriculum should include information on upcoming issues and the presidency. A major downfall in the electoral process is the lack of genuine information readily available to people. We as an American public should vote for a leader based on our beliefs, and what actions we want carried out, but we can only do so after being properly informed. The solution lies in the development of a reliable non-biased, and easily accessible source of presidential information.

In conclusion, the media spends entirely too much time discussing the race, religion, and gender of our presidential candidates instead of examining their proposals and methods for running the country. The media should avoid discussing these irrelevancies and stick to the issues and policies; the American public needs to devote more time to thoroughly researching candidates before casting their vote.

Middle School Honorable Mention