Overby: Negative politics is a dangerous strategy By:David Lias
Plain Talk Charles Overby, CEO of the Newseum in Washington, DC, admits that for a long time, he struggled to define the exact role of the Freedom Forum, created by his boss, Al Neuharth. â�?�?I finally came up with realization that the Freedom Forum is a non-partisan foundation dedicated to trying to get the media and the public to understand one another better,â�? he said Thursday night in Slagle Auditorium on The University of South Dakota campus. â�?�?What I find, year in and year out, is the public does not understand the media, and conversely, the media do not understand the public.â�? Overby was in Vermillion Thursday to take part in activities at the Al Neuharth Media Center during the day. That evening, Neuharth, a South Dakota native, 1950 graduate of USD and former CEO of Gannett Co., presented Overby with the 2008 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media. Overby told a capacity audience Thursday that the misunderstanding between the public and the media is compounded every four years with each presidential election. â�?�?Emotions run high in presidential elections,â�? he said. â�?�?That creates a lot of dissatisfaction. With each passing campaign, the seriousness of the dissatisfaction seems to increase.â�? Soon, Overby said, the politicians are demonizing one another, the media and the politicians distrust each other, and the public distrusts everybody. â�?�?Itâ�?�?s a wonder weâ�?�?ve been able to hold this country together,â�? he said. Overby said this distrust will never be eliminated, but he does believe it can be reduced. â�?�?First, we have to accept the idea that politics is a contact sport,â�? he said. â�?�?It has always been that way.â�? There is a trend in this country, he said, of less and less civilized politics, brought about by an increasing degree of negative political advertising in campaigns. â�?�?Too often, the negative advertising takes something out of context, or oversimplifies it, or distorts its,â�? Overby said. â�?�?This negative campaigning has filtered down to the state level, and you have seen it right here in South Dakota. â�?�?Every poll shows that the public hates negative advertising,â�? he said, â�?�?so why do these ads keep running? Because negative ads work. They raise enough doubts among undecided voters that candidates are willing to keep running them. And for some candidates â�?�? maybe all candidates â�?�? winning is everything.â�? Overby was greeted with politic applause from his audience when he suggested that winning in politics at any cost is a dangerous strategy for the long-term future of the nation. â�?�?Negative ads are fueling a dangerous cynicism,â�? he said. â�?�?How can we expect the best people in the country to offer themselves for public service if they are subjected to distorted, often personal, negative ads. I believe politicians need to be held accountable for their inappropriate negative ads.â�?