News & Politics
The Do's and Don'ts of Candidate Press Coverage
March 20, 2008
This campaign has been tough on everybody, but particularly on members of the media who find themselves stymied when trying to navigate this year's historic candidacy minefield. And since all three candidates have proven to be a bit, shall we say, delicate, a hastily compiled handy reference guide about how to cover the most exciting political sensations of this or indeed, many a generation, is in order.
Avoid the word "female." Do not under any circumstances use the Senator's maiden name. It is sexist to question whether the candidate's alleged marriage is legit, or to say anything about her husband. Positive or negative. Do not call Hillary Clinton "shrill." The candidate is penetrating and sharp; intense, passionate and fervent, but not shrill. Or strident. Please refrain from referring to the Senator as a witch or anything that rhymes with it. It is bad form to ask where Senator Clinton got her 35 years of experience. She got it the old fashioned way; she earned it. Do not call her husband an oaf. He is a lummox. Please do not remark on what the candidate is wearing any more than if she were a man. Especially blue pant-suits. Refrain from making comparisons to any other female politicians. Especially Geraldine Ferraro. Discussions of a candidate's physical characteristics have no place in serious campaign reportage. Her membership in the Big Calves Society is off-limits.
Avoid the word "race." Do not under any circumstances use the Senator's middle name. It is racist to question whether the candidate's alleged religion is legit, or to say anything about his minister. Positive or negative. Do not call Barack Obama "articulate." The candidate is eloquent and coherent; lucid, persuasive and expressive, but not articulate. Or clean. Please refrain from making comparisons to any other black politicians. Especially Jesse Jackson. You are requested not to use the words black, brown, white, red, yellow, pink, charcoal, onyx or inky. Ebony and obsidian are OK. The Senator is not gamine. He is lithe with the audacity of hope. All masculine youths will be referred to as young male children. Similarly, buoys shall henceforth be "floating markers." If you eat chicken at one of the candidate's events, make sure it is boneless, skinless and sautÃ©ed, not fried. It should neither be recognizable as a breast, a leg, a thigh or a wing, but rather be amorphous yet inspiring. The cheap and demeaning "Obambi" is out of bounds, and neither is he doe-eyed. His eyes are alive with the promise of tomorrow.
Avoid the word "old." The Senator's middle name is Sidney. Go ahead; use it. It is ageist to question whether the candidate's alleged infidelity is legit, or to say anything about his supposed girlfriend looking exactly like his wife. Just chalk it up to a case of mistaken identity. Please refrain from making comparisons to any other former veterans. Especially Captain Queeg. Stop asking for a demonstration of the candidate's authenticity. You wouldn't recognize it if you saw it anyhow. You should not call John McCain "prickly." The candidate is penetrating and sharp; intense, passionate and fervent, but not prickly. Neither is he shrill, grouchy, irritable or cantankerous. Or crabby or belligerent. Or grumpy. Or crotchety. Cindy McCain is the candidate's wife, not his attending nurse. When referring to a Vice President assuming the duties of the Presidency, please speak about this happening in the case of incapacitation, not death. You are requested not to use the words 'getting" and "on" next to each other in a sentence. Or "wizened," "elderly," "coot" or "geezer." "Mature" and "sage-like" are OK. Remarks about Early Bird Dinners are not appreciated.
Will Durst is a political comic, syndicated columnist, AM radio talk show host and defense liability.