The newly announced resignation of Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron, the abrupt stepping-down of Los Angeles Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine in December, and the highly anticipated departure of New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet (one hopes imminently) combine to create an epic moment of reckoning for these highly influential news organizations.
A new generation of leaders is coming! And they have a lot of urgent repair work ahead of them. That includes abandoning the failed, anachronistic notions of objectivity under which they have operated for so long, recognizing and rejecting establishment whiteness, and finding dramatically more effective ways to create an informed electorate.
Nowhere are those challenges more critical than when it comes to reporting about politics and government. So as my way of helping out, I’ve written a speech for the next boss to give to their political staffs. It goes like this:
It’s so nice to be here. I’m looking forward to working with all of you amazing reporters and editors. You’ve all shown you’re capable of incredible work, and I respect you enormously.
But at the same time, my arrival here is an inflection point.
It’s impossible to look out on the current state of political discourse in this country and think that we are succeeding in our core mission of creating an informed electorate.
It’s impossible to look out at the looming and in some cases existential challenges facing our republic and our globe – among them the pandemic, climate change, income inequality, racial injustice, the rise of disinformation and ethnic nationalism – and think that it’s OK for us to just keep doing what we’ve been doing.
So let me tell you a bit about what we need to do differently.
First of all, we’re going to rebrand you. Effective today, you are no longer political reporters (and editors); you are government reporters (and editors). That’s an important distinction, because it frees you to cover what is happening in Washington in the context of whether it is serving the people well, rather than which party is winning.
Historically, we have allowed our political journalism to be framed by the two parties. That has always created huge distortions, but never like it does today. Two-party framing limits us to covering what the leaders of those two sides consider in their interests. And, because it is appropriately not our job to take sides in partisan politics, we have felt an obligation to treat them both more or less equally.
Both parties are corrupted by money, which has badly perverted the debate for a long time. But one party, you have certainly noticed, has over the last decade or two descended into a froth of racism, grievance and reality-denial. Asking you to triangulate between today’s Democrats and today’s Republicans is effectively asking you to lobotomize yourself. I’m against that.
Defining our job as “not taking sides between the two parties” has also empowered bad-faith critics to accuse us of bias when we are simply calling out the truth. We will not take sides with one political party or the other, ever. But we will proudly, enthusiastically, take the side of wide-ranging, fact-based debate.
While we shouldn’t pretend we know the answers, we should just stop pretending we don’t know what the problems are. Indeed, your main job now is to publicly identify those problems, consider diverse views respectfully, ask hard questions of people on every side, demand evidence, explore intent, and write up what you’ve learned. Who is proposing intelligent solutions? Who is blocking them? And why?
And rather than obsess on bipartisanship, we should recognize that the solutions we need – and, indeed, the American common ground — sometimes lie outside the current Democratic-Republican axis, rather than at its middle, which opens up a world of interesting political-journalism avenues.
Political journalism as we have practiced it also too often emphasizes strategy over substance. It focuses on minor, incremental changes rather than the distance from the desirable – or necessary — goal. It obfuscates, rather than clarifies, the actual problems and the potential solutions.
Who’s winning today’s messaging wars is a story that may get you a lot of tweets, but in the greater scheme of things it means nothing. It adds no value. It’s a distraction from what matters to the public. It also distracts you from more important work.
Tiresomely chronicling who’s up and who’s down actually ends up normalizing the status quo. I ask you to consider taking — as a baseline — the view that there is urgent need for dramatic, powerful action from Washington, not just when it comes to the pandemic and the economic collapse, but regarding climate change and pollution, racial inequities, the broken immigration system, affordable health care, collapsing infrastructure, toxic monopolies, and more.
Then you get to help set the national agenda, based on what your reporting leads you to conclude that the people want, need, and deserve.
Learning from our Mistakes
Let’s also consider the biggest mistakes we have made over the last two decades, and learn from them.
The most important lesson of the Bush/Cheney years is that we should never assume government officials are telling us the truth, especially when it comes to matters involving war and national security. This is hardly an original lesson, and yet nonetheless it bears repeating. We should be particularly skeptical if they claim that secrecy precludes them from showing us concrete, persuasive evidence. The government routinely uses secrecy to protect itself, not the people.
One major lesson from the Obama years is: Don’t become complacent just because the president appears to know what he’s doing. The White House is a bubble, no matter its occupant. Power not only corrupts, it distorts, it distances, it detaches. The president and his staff must be constantly questioned, challenged, and exposed to reality outside the bubble. Critics must be heard. Transparency must be enforced. The press is uniquely capable of making that happen.
The big lesson from the 2016 election was not that we were out of touch with real people. It was that we had ignored – and, indeed, contributed to – a massive, viral outbreak of know-nothingism whose co-morbidities included white supremacy, white grievance, disinformation spread through the media and social media, mental illness, and, yes, some legitimate disillusionment about an uncaring and unresponsive government by the elites. We in the media helped by offering a divisive megalomaniac free and often unfiltered attention, by normalizing the radical extremism of the modern-day Republican Party, and by blowing Democratic failings wildly out of proportion to create false equivalence.
Faced – indeed shocked – by Trump’s victory, we should have risen to the challenge and jumped to an emergency footing. We should have gone not back to work as usual, but to war – a war not against Trump but against lies, incipient authoritarianism, and white supremacy. We should have corrected misinformation and advocated for the truth as emphatically and effectively as Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda ecosystem armed its audience with misinformation.
So yeah, let’s not make those mistakes again.
Luckily, the enthusiasm and skills that brought you into the news business in the first place are exactly what’s needed right now. My goal is not to squelch you, it is to encourage you to use your exceptional abilities to observe, analyze, and communicate to help the public understand the news and put it in context.
Sometimes, that will just entail remembering – maybe even just remembering the other stories you yourself have written. Much of the incremental news coming out of Washington these days makes no sense to readers unless they are familiar with the larger narrative. And we can’t assume they are. We can’t assume they understand basic civics. We can’t even assume they appreciate the difference between verifiable facts and baseless lies.
Habits developed in an era of loyal readers and limited space no longer apply – not when people land on our stories from who-knows-where and we can offer background and verification, through our writing and through supplementary links. What has been the unstated subtext of so many of our stories – that politics bends to the powerful, that bigotry blights so many American lives, that climate catastrophe is imminent – needs to be clear and obvious going forward. It needs to be in the headline.
Here’s how we’re going to start: I want each of you to write a “beat note,” in which you describe at a high level what you see happening on your beat, what major questions you’re trying to answer, who the key players are, who seems to be operating in good faith and bad faith, what pressures they are under, and what you think the biggest challenges are ahead. Then we’ll publish them. We’ll link to them from your “author” pages so people will know where you’re coming from. We’ll encourage your editors, your colleagues, the readers — and an economically and racially diverse advisory board I’m putting together – to interrogate those memos. We’ll encourage you to engage in conversation about those memos. And you’ll revise and update them going forward.
So let’s talk about economic and racial diversity.
I look out at our profession, and I don’t see much of it.
Over time, that has to change. And it will change – but not overnight.
What we need to do, in the meantime, is recognize the effects of that: namely, that we have for a long time now operated in an atmosphere of establishment whiteness, where whiteness and white values are considered the norm.
This has corrupted what the previous generation of leaders considered “objective” journalism. Even if you value being “detached” or “above it all” – which, for the record, I do not — you are neither of those things if you haven’t recognized, not to mention rejected, white privilege and presumptions.
We in this business write and report, by default, from a position of whiteness. Our sources are too often white and male. Our presumed readers – the ones we worry about not offending – are white, male, affluent, and centrist (as if centrism were still a thing.)
We too often think of whiteness as neutral. What we have all witnessed so vividly in the last four years is what nonwhite people have experienced for decades: that it is not. Whiteness can no longer be invisible in this newsroom. It must be acknowledged, studied and questioned. Non-white voices must be raised up and valued.
In the meantime, here’s what you can start doing differently in your daily work right now: Visualize an audience that is diverse – politically, racially, socioeconomically, demographically, geographically, and by gender. Make a project of diversifying your sources. Question your blind spots. Recognize racism and call it out. Solicit criticism from people you respect.
Instead of trying to triangulate based on what you think you should be writing, or what your editors expect from you, or what you might get dinged for on Twitter, root everything you do in basic moral, journalistic principles, like fair play, civil liberty, free speech, truth in government, and a humane society. You might call that “moral clarity.”
And a Few Other Things
From now on, I’m the bad cop when it comes to dishy sources who want to talk to you anonymously. When you tell your sources “my boss won’t let me quote you unless you speak to me on the record,” that’s me.
Granting anonymity is a two-way contract and should only come in return for delivering accurate information of great value to the public. In its ideal form, it protects sources who tell secrets and would otherwise face retribution from the bosses who don’t want the public to know the truth.
But publishing what anonymous sources say is essentially vouching for their credibility, because readers have no way of judging it on their own. It also means the sources can avoid accountability of any kind for what they said, including if they lied.
So new rules:
- No anonymous sourcing unless you and your editor agree that the information is vital to an important story, otherwise unattainable, and you are either satisfied of your source’s altruistic motives or prepared to describe their more venal ones to your readers.
- Warn them that if they lie to you, you will out them.
I’m also abolishing the fact-checking department. Or rather, I’m turning everyone into a fact-checker. Fact-checks shouldn’t be segregated. If a lie is important, that’s a news story. If an entire political party is engaged in gaslighting, that’s a news story.
Even more importantly, we should pursue consequences for lying, because right now there are none beyond a “fact check” that nobody reads. That means interrupting known liars when they are repeating a known lie. That means demanding retractions, publicly and repeatedly. That means denying serial liars the opportunity to use the media – particularly live media — to spread their lies. That means whenever you quote a serial liar, even if they are not provably lying at the time, you warn readers that they lie a lot. That means openly distinguishing in your reporting between people who, regardless of their political views, can be counted on to be acting in good faith from those who can be counted on to be acting in bad faith.
This is crucial to our mission and our economic survival. In a world with no consequences for lying, fact-based journalism has little value.
So in summary, I am not telling you what to think. I am asking you to think for yourselves. I’m asking you to interrogate some of your presumptions, to be certain – but then tell the truth as you see it.
Any questions? I’m sorry, what was that? Oh, I’ve been fired? Already?
‘This has corrupted what the previous generation of leaders considered “objective” journalism. Even if you value being “detached” or “above it all” – which, for the record, I do not — you are neither of those things if you haven’t recognized, not to mention rejected, white privilege and presumptions.’
Journalism started it’s long slide towards irrelevancy and involvency about the time that objectivity was dismissed as a foundational value of good journalism. Coincidence?
Disagree strongly, starting with what I suspect is your notion of objectivity. Here are some things I’ve written on the topic: https://presswatchers.org/category/objectivity/
If you disagree, you should state WHAT you disagree with. That ournalism as a commercial endevour is in decline? That this decline began about the time that objectivity started being dismissed?
“Journalism started it’s long slide towards irrelevancy and involvency about the time that objectivity was dismissed as a foundational value of good journalism. Coincidence?”
When was this, precisely? An approximate year would be good enough.
People who claim to be “objective” aren’t.
There’s no such thing as “white privilege.”
There are millions have poor – or struggling – white people in America. I’m one of them.
The vast gulf between the rich and the non-rich is much more important than diminishing racial grievances. The Trump cult welcomes white supremacists, but this does not define America.
I feel your pain, but you seem to be in denial about certain things that are real and true.
If you are worried about “white privilege,” why are you yammering to everyone, white guy? Look, if you’re ashamed of being white, fine. But I’m not, and I’m not going to be, regardless of what orders you and your “progressive” crowd hands out.
I would like my fellow white people, when they’re in positions of power, to be a bit more aware that, well, not everyone is white. Does that sound so bad to you?
LOL. Yeah, that’s the message. Sure.
Awesome piece! Love it. I sure hope this message resonates with the field and some, it not all, of your ideas are adopted. Maybe that’s Pollyannaish thinking. I am not in media (marketing/corp. communications) but believe in its importance. It’s so important to our democracy. If we as a public think we’re lied to when we have a media that can expose those lies – and has, just think what would be happening in secrecy in our government if this profession wasn’t around.
Also, thank you for asking our fellow white people (I’m bi-racial, and strongly identify with both my white and black side) to be cognizant about white norms. I wish people would understand that white privilege as nothing to do with one’s socioeconomic position in life or upbringing. It has everything to do with the color of one’s skin and the currency that it represents. When people see white people, there are unspoken norms of acceptance, intelligence, goodness and the like simply because of the color of their skin. POC typically don’t have that currency and have to prove that they’re ok, intelligent and good – if even they’re given the chance.
Beautifully put. Thanks!
And what is the evidence that white privilege exists in any significant way?
Not that I believe you’re asking in good faith, but here you go:
^Has a list of unwritten rules that Black Americans are taught to follow complete with plenty of links to news articles showing evidence of the rules and plenty of resources to learn more about the histories behind the rules and societal factors that caused them and include peer-reviewed studies to show these all exist.
White privilege is not having to live by those rules.
I think you may have some misapprehensions about what “white privilege” refers to. It does not mean that all white people are wealthy or powerful, only that whiteness as a status confers relative benefits compared to those in similar situation. Class divides are absolutely key in understanding American inequality, but being poor and white simply is not the same as being poor and black. Of course race and class aren’t the only kinds of privilege that exist, but it’s ridiculous to say that racial status doesn’t confer certain privileges, even if some others are more privileged by virtue of their socioeconomic class. For another perspectives, try looking up “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person” by Gina Crosley-Corcoran, a white woman who initially had a very similar objection to the idea that her whiteness conferred any kind of privilege.
Thank you for this Gerritt. Said so well. This is why it’s important to understand intersectionality. If we’re having a conversation specifically about race, we mustn’t bring in classism, sexism, etc. Those conversations are equally important, but they distract from the topic on the table.
Once understanding is gained in each topic, we can start advancing our thinking to see how race, class, sex interact with one another—lending privilege in some ways (e.g. white) and the lack of in others (e.g. low income, female).
You are fooling yours if you don’t think white privilege exists. White, male privilege is harmful to our entire country.
Thanks for the “progressive” partisanship, arrogance, smugness, and virtue signaling. If you ever happen to become genuinely curious about why public trust in the media is at record lows and keeps dropping, I suggest strolling over to the nearest mirror to have a chat with the apparatchik you see there.
Spot on. But you’re asking them to work, when it’s so much easier to quote partisans from each side and call it a day. Even if they are now “government reporters,” often the answers lie outside it. Find the knowlegable wherever they are. And when they are determining what to write about, I hope they call on their readers, i.e., Rosen’s “citizen’s agenda.”
Great column. I hope it is heeded.
Froomkin says his brave new journalism “means interrupting known liars when they are repeating a known lie.”
Of course that doesn’t include the non-stop liar and clown Obama, because Froomkin is terrified by the race card, just like every other so-called reporter in Washington.
So Obama got a free pass from Froomkin and his playmates for eight long years, but just in case you want to know how it sounds to interrupt a liar, here’s a prime example:
Please read some of my work and tell me I gave Obama a free pass. This from one Google search.
“That’s an important distinction, because it frees you to cover what is happening in Washington in the context of WHETHER IT IS SERVING THE PEOPLE WELL, rather than which party is winning.”
Dan, I would imagine you,… like most of the country believes in the sentiment that the federal government is supposed to “serve the people” or serve the best interests of the citizens. But where does this notion come from? Certainly not from the rule book of the government, the Constitution. There’s a difference between promoting the general welfare of the United States and serving the interests of the citizens. To me, this is an inherent problem of journalists and how they cover politics.
If journalists believe the federal government is serving the interests of citizens, then journalists going to frame people like me as Aholes because I don’t believe the federal government should cancel college debt, provide free childcare, and generally get into lives of citizens. This is the job of me, my family, the community, social institutions, maybe even my local/state government to look after my best interests, ….but certainly not the federal government, which has enough on its plate to take care of the country.
There is this created expectation with the audience (I’d call it disinformation myself) that journalists have promoted for a long time about the role of the federal government that is making a mess about the way we understand how government interacts with society…and I think it is an inherently left of center, big government bias that underpins a lot of the mess in media.
For instance,…the NY Times had a typical “Trump bad” article because they interviewed a few disgruntled federal workers and noticed how in the areas of government that were shrunk by Trump, how people were unhappy. Not once in the article did they convey to they audience about how effective their work is for the sake of the country. 4000 people work in the Education Dept and they are unhappy. Great. If we pay them on average $100K, that’s $400,000,000 we are paying these people to perform…what do they do if Education in this country is decentralized across 13,000 school districts in this country? What are these 4000 folks doing to benefit the country overall if they aren’t teaching or administering? Instead, the NY Times is framing the article as Trump is not serving the interests of the citizens working for the government. This is the wrong way to frame what otherwise is an interesting story about the size of government agencies, but is fairly typical for a publication that has the wrong notion of how the federal government is to serve society.
Be curious to get your thoughts…. thanks for reading!
I think you raise a marvelous point. But the current debate, typically between Democrats and Republicans, is over how best to serve the people and who big government should favor more. As long as we’re arguing about what best serves the people, I think journalists have an important role in distinguishing between what would work and what wouldn’t, and what’s being argued in good faith and bad faith.
I hope one day we get (back?) to an honest debate where conservatives argue, like you do, that they believe in lower taxes and limited government, regardless of the immediate consequences on, you know, poor children and hungry families and so on.
I personally believe in an activist federal government. But as a journalist, I would welcome that debate!
Dan, I imagine that everyone accepts that there is no need to publish both sides on debates where one side is clearly false or operating in bad faith. Yet most of us think all our ideas/biases are reasonable. *Our* side — however we conceive it — is never the one that needs to be excluded. Never the one who *benefits* from false equivalence. For example, I suspect you will struggle to find an idea of *your own* that would be rightly rejected by your new, false-equivalence spurning press corps. I know I do. This doesn’t imply that nothing is definitively true, much less things does it imply that some people and organizations aren’t bad faith liars. But it make vivid the concern that abandoning ‘objectivity’ will not yield great, pro-citizen reporting but instead unleash reporters to indulge their inner propagandist.
Well, here’s where the original meaning of the word “objective” comes to play. The holy grail for journalists is/should be knowledge, built from a foundation of provable facts, testable hypotheses, evidence, science, expertise.
“4000 people work in the Education Dept and they are unhappy. Great. If we pay them on average $100K, that’s $400,000,000 we are paying these people to perform…what do they do if Education in this country is decentralized across 13,000 school districts in this country? What are these 4000 folks doing to benefit the country overall if they aren’t teaching or administering?”
Really, you think in this country we pay civil servants $100k on average? I’d be shocked if the average was over $50k, but even if it were, $400 million isn’t even pocket change in the context of the federal budget. And like it or not the federal government is tasked with doing a whole lot of things and being upset that it has to do those things and cutting the number of people who are tasked with doing those things does not in any way change how many things it needs to do. All it does is ensure they get done worse, with less oversight, and more corruption. The education department is tasked with overseeing FASFA applications, and awarding student loans, conducting oversight of colleges, administering grants to different school districts and evaluating performance, and lots of other things that still need to get done even if you want them to have less staff to do it with. Cut the staff and you might just be providing a lifeline to some corrupt for profit college that saddles kids with mountains of debt for useless degrees.
What about other advanced, wealthy democracies who have stronger social welfare states than America does, and better quality of life/health care/education metrics? And only because they have better market economies, better mix of capitalism and strong central governments? Each supports the other. Businesses and people pay taxes and get in return protection and better lives.
I also don’t understand why small and local government is okay but the federal govt is bad. The latter is the former but just bigger and with more resources. Sure, it’s not close to a local problem, and has a bigger bureaucracy, but that’s fixing its effectiveness, a constant struggle, rather than a blanket ideological statement that it doesn’t work at all or most of the time, which isn’t true. State governments (your perception of CA), and city govenments may not work. That doesn’t mean we drown them in bathtubs, but make them more effective.
There must be, after all, a counter force to the great power of big business, only concerned with profit and shareholder value, commiting injustices against the people and making their lives hard. Govenment, at all levels must be that force. Otherwise we’re back to people living in 1900.
And what’s the political alternative? A Republican Party that is radical, extremist, fact-free, pushing policies that objectively harm Americans and the country?
Appreciate the response Dan,…let me throw something else out there. Lets say as a journalist you believe in an activist government to solve for poor children, hungry families, so on. Then why not focus on a government like California that has a supermajority of government activists in both houses of chamber and in the governorship?
With an activist government, CA has the highest poverty rate in the country accounting for cost of living, has great inequality as measured by the gini coefficient, is losing population to other states, and only has a 6% black population because they are leaving big cities with great opportunities for social mobility like SF, Oak, LA.
To me, the debate is all about if we (Dems and journalists) are trying to turn the country into CA in terms of being run by an active government, then don’t you at least want to see success in CA before we transition the whole country? Should journalists put pressure on CA to go big with universal healthcare, free childcare, lengthy parental leave, strong minimum wage so we can see if these policies can actually re-engineer society for the better? Since this country was founded on strong social institutions that have since diminished with the rise of larger government, there’s a good chance that we just continuously find ourselves in cycle of fixing short problems at the expense of long term societal decline. Why create social cohesion if the government is going to solve all problems?
I think this is what is driving conservatives like me nuts. I respect folks who prefer to have government provide for citizen over social institutions,…I think its wrong, dangerous, and not what the country is about,….but I respect the process of American democracy and that we are labs of democracy where certain states can experiment with that approach if that’s what the people want. What I don’t get, is why elevate the voices of Bernie, or Liz Warren, or AOC when they don’t the courage of guts to be governors or mayors? If the ideas are so great, they should be held accountable for their ideas at the state level. (ps – Bernie lost the governorship three different times. So if Vermont didn’t want his ideas, why am I being subjected to his ideas?). Why can’t the media frame politics with this perspective?
I get your point,…the current debate is how big do we want government. But the only reason that debate is happening is because journalists and publications are framing it that way because that’s also how they see the world (in a rather narrow view in my opinion). Don’t publications have a duty to put pressure on politicians to be accountable for their ideas within the framework of the country’s rules of governance?
As you can tell, “reality based” media is a frustrating experience for somebody who wants to give a chance but is continuously disappointed over its narrow framing of political issues and rather deceitful in the process. The right wing media has a TON of disinformation, I think so does the “reality based” media by the way they incorrectly frame political stories.
Hey Dan,…no need to reply to my response. Going around this website, I’ve realized you have more progressive views that aren’t going to jive with my conservative views so we may never see eye to eye on political coverage. I’ll leave you alone….just know that they are good faith conservatives that are being driven to the far right because we feel that the mainstream media coverage (forget about progressive coverage like Mother jones and the nation) is intentionally deceiving the public with their day to day coverage of national politics. There is respect for those perspectives who believe in big government, and feel free to practice that in NY, Vermont, CA, Oregon, Washington.
But for such a diverse and inclusive (immigrants of color still want to come here) country like the United States that was built on these principles, as was allowed at that time (important point about context of 1787), why is the media trying to destroy that diversity and make us into United America? That’s not us. We aren’t a European country by design. We are different. And the media should start respecting that instead of falling into the “sliding benchmarks” of political coverage.
Be well, be safe.
You act as if there’s no evidence for the success of government programs to alleviate poverty, provide health care, etc. It is legion. (Even in California, relative to projections of what it would be like otherwise.)
By contrast, there is no evidence that tax cuts for the rich help anyone but the rich, or that the private sector steps up when the government steps down.
Some things, like actually addressing income inequality, remain only hypothetical, because both parties are corrupted.
So yes, I’m reality-based.
Don’t think there is much evidence that Trump’s tax cuts will do anything for the long term. Agree that there is no evidence that tax cuts on income tax help the economy, but that doesn’t mean all tax cuts don’t work. Corporate tax reform in the 1980’s laid the groundwork for the information revolution in the 1990’s. Overall, tax reform (higher or lower) is relatively over-rated as in impact in the long run in an economy (in most instances). Many more things impact an economy.
Private sector stepping up – we’ve seen a major increase in private school enrollment and in homeschooling since COVID. That’s a huge development considering it is rare for governments to cut programs and policies once they are in place.
The last 50 years, the government (federal/state/local) has spent $16trillion to fight poverty,…as of 2014, we had reduced poverty from 19% to 15%. (Cato)
The “reality-based” evidence suggests we aren’t very good at social engineering poverty away. So lets continue the experiments in states and see what works instead of assuming we always have the solutions. Otherwise, states like CA, Oregon, WA, Vermont, NY….they would have solved poverty.
Not sure your point about CA. There are of course some government programs that we can find evidence for that reduce poverty for which the alternative solutions wouldn’t be better. But there aren’t many. How do we know? CA has an active legislation and a high poverty rate. Unless you believe CA legislators are intentionally holding back on magic policies that could reduce poverty, not sure where you are going with your argument. Common anti-poverty measures like rent control and tenant protections have actually hurt the lower classes in CA – reduces the incentive to create more supply. Passing legislation is easy, understanding how society is going to react to legislation is harder.
Back to the media,…shouldn’t journalists, left or right, be even somewhat curious as to why CA has failed to improve the lives of the poor? 40 million people, fifth largest economy in the world, active legislation – do they need more regulation, less regulation, higher taxes, lower taxes? In a country called the United STATES of America, I know I’d be curious if I was a journalist. This should be front page news in the NY Times, the great ongoing experiment in CA to improve society.
Thank you for a consideration of the role of journalism in our current mess as well as how we got here.
One great failing of today’s media is saying “Congress” wasn’t able to reach agreement on X. That muddles the picture.
The media need to specify which party is trying to pass what legislation, and which party is trying to block it. And it needs to do that, to the maximum extent possible, in a story’s headline and initial paragraph.
People can’t vote in an informed manner unless it’s spelled out for them who’s on which side. And that has to be based on what each party and its leadership DO, and they can’t be allowed to smokescreen it by uncritically printing what they SAY when it’s in obvious conflict with their actions.
But what about spectacle?
Plenty to like here, to hell with the ‘fact checkers’ and to hell with cozy relationships with anonymous sources, but the twi words journalists most need to understand are simply ‘credibility matters’. This is why those who came before you so treasured objectivity, not for its own sake but because when your objectivity goes, your credibility is not far behind.
And the worse news is that the things which bring in the most money, clickbait and partisan bullshit, destroy your credibility most.
In articles or broadcasts of man-on-the street interviews of Republican voters and Trump supporters, instead of just transcribing the factually wrong things they say, I’d love it if the reporter would correct them and keep on correcting them. On what actual socialism is, for example. Too many interviews where the uninformed think America under Democrats will become like Cuba or the Soviet Union.
Have the media call out ignorance in a way that’s not insulting to people. Since it’s perfectly natural for everyone to be ignorant and dumb in many subjects. Admitting it is the first step towards correcting it and learning. The news media should be like teachers who know how to do that gracefully.
Journalism continues to set itself on fire and scream “WE DEMAND TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.” It’s ludicrously comical. Faith in media has cratered but you won’t find one journalist looking inward for the roots of the problem. It couldn’t be them. For this crowd the menace are always Nazis, Russians, and fascists. When you’re hysterical, hyperbolic, and histrionic, they are always right around the corner threatening democracy.
I can’t wait for all the journalists to out their bad sources on Russian Collusion.
Most of the serious news reports about relationships between the Trump campaign and Russia were accurate.
To all legitimate news media everywhere!
Can we stop sugar-coating lies as “conspiracy theories”? And these are not “alternative facts”, either! No more euphemisms for LIES, please.
The first definition of “theory” according to Webster is “a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena.”
There is noting plausible or scientifically acceptable about, for example, the Rothschilds commandeering lasers from space to start the California wildfires. So let’s call this a LIE, because that is what it is.
When a Fox News personality tells a lie or offers conjecture without facts, call these LIES.
The only way for truth to prevail is to call LIES LIES!
I strongly support the concept of journalistic entitiies getting outside the “two-party framing” and trying to assess how the Federal government is benefiting the people. After all, as the Constitution states at the very top, “we the people” created this beast in part to “promote the general welfare”. But we can’t trust the flacks from either party to accurately portray how well they (or those demon scum on the other side) are doing at that.
We need to accept that no initiative benefits every person/class/region/industry equally. But over time and in aggregate the ROI should be understood. I want to know not just “where’s my fair share?” but “who are my friends?” that are helping me get it. I don’t care if they’re red, blue, green or have pink and yellow stripes, I’ll happily support them.
And our Constitution creates 50 (at current count) little Petri dishes, each an experiment-in-progress with widely varying policies and programs. I would welcome comparisons of how well they’re “promoting the general welfare” of their residents. That feels like an outside-the-two-party-framing feedback loop that is sorely lacking in our discourse.
Thanks for the stimulating thoughts!
We live in times akin to 1776, when really big political, etc. forces were at play. Your editorial here could have been written for any time, though, and so, it fails, I think.
Is our “core mission” to create “an informed electorate?” I don’t think so. We hope that is what happens when we report, but, that is not our mission. We live to tell folks what going on. We hope to look out into the deep blue sea and gaze upon what we would call an informed electorate. But, you are not in the business of creating a a bunch of missionaries …
Also, my personal pet piece is the use of the word “existential.”
Message to writers and reporters: Please stop using the word existential. It was sexy a few years ago, now it just sounds stupid. Kinda like using the term “avant garde.”
The lesson here: tell it like it is (avant garde = new) … just say it. Existential = related to life and death. Again, just say it.
This article is an example of the problem not a solution to it. As a real person I can say this is what real people want the press to report on — safety of our food and how to make it safer, clean air and water, education opportunities for our children and families, infrastructure improvement projects, transportation initiatives, economic development.
I would love to see you dive more deeply (or link to where you’ve already done this) about journalism that escapes the two-party frame. As some dissenters above have signaled, much of what you describe in how you would want your press corps to operate will not escape the knee-jerk reaction of “left wing media bias” by the Fox News crowd. And, may be that’s not at all the goal here, but to amplify the voices and be in service of the greater citizenry, there remains the challenge of “I know what’s best for you” signaling that will rarely see any of the 75 million Trump voters gladly shift their thinking.
Maybe the emphasis on context can be executed in a way that causes such a shift, not through the news outlet itself, but through the daily interactions of people armed with the context and facts when in conversation with those who choose punchlines they collected from their nightly cable news (regardless of “right” or “left” sources).