Arnold Schwarzenegger has done a masterful job of managing the media and his approval ratings are at 60% in a Democratic-leanign state. My question is, is this “handling” of the media good or bad, and why? Is the public reponding to this “managed” image, or is it responding to the job he is doing, generally unclouded by negative media coverage?
- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has turned his savvy for handling the Hollywood media to his role as workaday governor, exerting directorial control over what reporters can see, hear, photograph or record.
….Since taking office in November, his public events frequently offer little more than choice camera angles and a well-rehearsed sound bite. Almost without exception, reporters are confined inside steel barricades or behind rope lines, often beyond shouting distance. At times he takes questions, but just as often he does not.
The tightly controlled access raises questions about whether the public is getting a clear-eyed view of the actor-turned-governor or a deftly shaped persona. Such issues shadowed him during his carefully scripted campaign last year.
Aides acknowledged limiting media questions to avoid blurring an intended message at an event. The tactic also shields the talkative Schwarzenegger from the possibility of a slip up or unexpected inquiries on thorny subjects, such as gay marriage or his racy past.
The governor’s strategy can be judged by its results, said Bryce Nelson, a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication.
“He’s gotten relatively little critical media attention,” Nelson said.
….”They’ve instituted presidential-level media rules at the state level,” said Republican media strategist Dan Schnur, who advised John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. “Most state politicians rely on that interplay with the news media in order to attract coverage. But like a president or a presidential candidate, Schwarzenegger knows that the media is going to cover him whether he talks to them or not.”
As governor, tough questions and candid photographs make it more difficult to control an image shaped by a largely fawning Hollywood press. Still, Schwarzenegger’s attempts to control media coverage since being elected in October’s recall election are unprecedented by Sacramento standards.
“He’s doing a masterful job of delivering the message on his terms,” said Roger Salazar, a former spokesman for Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign who earlier worked for Gov. Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger’s Democratic predecessor.
The California public doesn’t seem to mind. Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings hover around 60 percent, impressive for a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state.
….There are signs the governor is opening up. Recently, he conducted one-on-one interviews with newspaper reporters in Sacramento with no strings attached, a first since coming to the statehouse last year.
But his advisers say they prefer the sort of exposure he gets on television, and he continues to appear on talk shows and national news shows.
“Our rule is, let Arnold be Arnold,” said his communications director, Robert Stutzman. “The best way is television. It’s a transaction directly with the people. … It’s a particular strength he has, to be in front of the camera.” [AP]