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Intertwining humorous anecdotes and caustic cynicism, 1967 College graduate Andrea Mitchell -- the chief Congressional correspondent for NBC News -- spoke to hundreds of students last night about the role of network news in the past three presidential campaigns. Although the event was publicized as a speech on "how the U.S. system of divided government is not working," Mitchell focused on network news coverage of political campaigns, saying it allows the candidates to oversimplify the issues. "The networks tend to gloss over very important, fundamental and sometimes profound facts," Mitchell said. She added that time constraints and the visual aids in television newscasting curtail detailed coverage of issues. Pointing to incidents in both the Reagan and Bush campaigns, Mitchell said the candidates and consultants have geared the campaigns toward television by staging "picture shows" that appeal to viewers and avoid meaningful discussion of issues. Mitchell said in one instance, Reagan's "media management" deliberately kept reporters behind the "shout line" so as to prevent the president from hearing any questions. Mitchell said consultants had "turned to television with a highly polished presidential performance, the Norman Rockwell image of a happy America." "Campaigns have become travelling road shows, and what gets lost in this process is the issue of who would do a better job of governing," she said. Mitchell concluded the Zellerbach Theatre address with an appeal to students to become more involved in the political process and to look to sources beyond the networks for information. Students asked questions about possible improvements in television news reporting, coverage of the Middle East, and the effect of the budget crisis on student loans. College freshman Caleb McArthur said Mitchell raised some valid points about problems with the networks' coverage, but criticized her for not addressing the money-making aspect of television reporting.

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