Surely a morose topic for Stuart Stevens, former 2012 Romney campaign strategist, but nonetheless, he nails it on the realities of campaign news coverage (emphasis ours):
In a recent paper for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, CNN reporter Peter Hamby recounts how he and a reporter for BuzzFeed, Zeke Miller, were given the same tip at the same time. Hamby writes: “It took Miller’s story just four and half minutes to be checked by an editor and posted on BuzzFeed. The competing CNN.com story showed up online 31 minutes after that.”
It is difficult to do journalistic due diligence on a story in 31 minutes; it’s impossible in four and a half minutes. In theory, the weight of a credible news source like CNN, a pioneer in 24-hour news, should be greater than that of a website like BuzzFeed, a pioneer in cat videos. But in the real world, negative information, once it enters in the bloodstream, has virtually the same weight, regardless of the delivery system. Or as Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager and an expert on opposition research, put it in Hamby’s paper: “A link is a link.”
In campaigns, you quickly learn that “news” doesn’t have to be new. With a bit of lipstick, you can sell and resell the same pig over and over. During the 2012 presidential campaign, The New York Times wrote about Mitt Romney putting a family dog in a pet carrier on the roof of a station wagon far more than it did about any number of serious issues like gun control or the minimum wage. There was nothing new about the dog story, but the Obama campaign was pushing it, even releasing a photo of the president’s dog, Bo, in the presidential limousine with the caption “This is how responsible pet owners treat dogs.” That’s high-gloss lipstick, but the pig is the same.