On Monday, Repub­lican pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Herman Cain appeared on CNN to defend him­self against a forth­coming accu­sa­tion by an Atlanta busi­ness­woman that the two engaged in an extra­mar­ital affair for more than a decade. The move appeared to be a last ditch effort by Cain to sal­vage his cam­paign, which was put in a pre­car­ious posi­tion after alle­ga­tions of sexual mis­con­duct first sur­faced last month in an inves­tiga­tive report by Politico. We asked Alan Schroeder, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of jour­nalism who has written about a variety of media-​​related topics for Politico, The New York Times and The Wash­ington Post, to ana­lyze the role of the media in the 2012 GOP pri­mary election.

What is the best com­mu­ni­ca­tion channel through which GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates should try to dis­sem­i­nate their mes­sages? How much of a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive impact can viral videos have on can­di­dates in the 2012 campaign?

No single com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool can accom­plish every­thing a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date needs to accom­plish, so the best strategy for get­ting out one’s mes­sage involves a broad and varied mix of methods — every­thing from tra­di­tional media and paid adver­tising to YouTube chan­nels and tweets.  Of course, no can­di­date can com­pletely con­trol his or her mes­sage, which means that cam­paigns must be flex­ible enough to respond to things that blow up out of nowhere, like viral videos. The effect of these varies greatly. Prob­ably the most dan­gerous are clips from pop­ular comedy shows such as “Sat­urday Night Live,” “The Col­bert Report” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” because they are widely cir­cu­lated and because they don’t hes­i­tate to ridicule the office-​​seekers.

Last week, The New Hamp­shire Union Leader endorsed Newt Gin­grich for the Repub­lican pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. How much clout do news­paper endorse­ments have with voters in influ­en­tial pri­mary states?

News­paper endorse­ments don’t nor­mally move votes, but they do help solidify a candidate’s standing, not just with the elec­torate but with donors and polit­ical reporters too. New Hamp­shire is some­what unique in that it’s a small state where the Union Leader has tra­di­tion­ally played an out­sized role. Nonethe­less, the paper has endorsed a number of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates over the years who did not meet with suc­cess. The inter­esting thing about this year’s endorse­ment is that it rep­re­sents a major slap in the face for Mitt Romney, who has been posi­tioning him­self as the favorite son because he has a second home in New Hamp­shire and was gov­ernor of the state next door.

A study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excel­lence in Jour­nalism found that Repub­lican pres­i­den­tial hopeful Ron Paul has received less news cov­erage than GOP rivals Jon Huntsman and Rick San­torum, who garner roughly 2 per­cent of sup­port in national polls. How does the media choose which can­di­dates to cover? Why do you think Paul has been passed over by major news outlets?

The ten­dency among polit­ical reporters is to prefer the new over the old.  Having been down this road before, Ron Paul is a less appealing sub­ject to jour­nal­ists than his fresher alter­na­tives. Unfor­tu­nately for Paul, the fact that he receives lim­ited cov­erage ham­pers his ability to rise in the polls, which in turn gives the media an excuse for ignoring him.  He’s caught in a bit of a trap, and there’s not much he can do about it.