GOUCHER College got some expert analysis of President...

salmagundi

February 17, 1993

GOUCHER College got some expert analysis of President Clinton's 10-minute address to the nation Monday night. Long before the broadcast was planned, the college had scheduled a lecture by ABC media analyst Jeff Greenfield as part of the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Visiting Professor Series.

The lecture, scheduled for 8 p.m., presented a dilemma when word came that the president would speak at 9. Not to worry. A television was placed onstage, and after an hour of remarks and questions, Mr. Greenfield joined the audience to watch the speech. Afterwards, he returned to the stage for an instant analysis.

The verdict? Mr. Greenfield generally gave the president high marks. But his observations are best taken in the context of his speech.

Mr. Greenfield noted that in the past decade, a number of changes -- such as the rise of cable television, remote control devices that make it easier to change channels and satellites that free local stations from dependence on network transmissions -- have democratized the media. Politicians "don't need us anymore to get to the voters," he said. The Clinton campaign took advantage of the changes, scheduling the candidate in such unconventional formats as the Arsenio Hall show to introduce him to a segment of voting-age Americans who might never tune in to traditional political news. Ross Perot's campaign was another product of the broadcast revolution.

But the democratized media isn't all magic for politicians. Mr. Greenfield argued that presidential attempts to manage the media don't work unless the message is based on sound politics. As President Bush learned, packaging a message doesn't work unless there's a message there to package.

"I have the unconventional view that reality matters," Mr. Greenfield said.

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