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How does the media impact politics?
Answered by Jack Leslie
  • Jack Leslie

    Jack Leslie

  1. Jack Leslie Chairman, Weber Shandwick


    I think the political process has gotten to the point where everyone is under the microscope all the time, and you can never get out of character almost. You've gotta live that point of view 24/7, and they can't seem to break the cycle. They can't seem to understand that you can have your differences and still have a friendship.

    I think part of it too is there is a bit of fundamental shift in the way we are looking at political leaders and, therefore, the way they look at themselves. Some of that's due to television, by the way. I've been convinced -- as I've watched as a political consultant particularly, in the late 70s and 80s as television became more and more used in campaigns -- an interesting thing happened. And that is that prior to that time, the decisions were really made in the smoke-filled back rooms. The political leaders chose the candidates and the lists and drove the process. And then all of a sudden, television came along, and it allowed these candidates to go directly into the living rooms of voters. And television is like an x-ray machine.  People can look in those eyes, and they can tell whether or not you're telling the truth. And the interesting thing that started to happen was that people began to put a much greater premium on character and personality and less on the issues, and they started getting driven by those things.

    And we saw huge consequences of that. We saw the decline of political parties. We saw the decline of party discipline in Congress. We saw the rise of independent voters. It's had enormous implications in our body politic. But what's also happened is that -- rather than being able to have the great debates of the moment, the Civil Rights Act or whatever they may be, and then go off and be friends after -- now everything is much more focused on personality and character. So having disagreements with each other on the issues and still being able to go back and be friends is just something that doesn't happen anymore.

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