Founded in October 2019 by longtime journalist and media critic Dan Froomkin, Press Watch is an independent non-profit organization devoted to encouraging political journalists to live up to the highest standards of their profession. It is funded by donations from readers and the philanthropic community.
Even before Trump, a fairly coherent and consistent critique of political journalism at our major news outlets had emerged: It’s too shallow, too attracted to spectacle and too easily distracted. It is forgetful and indifferent to expertise. It is too quick to normalize abnormal behavior. It considers elitist conventional wisdom to be objective, and is out of touch with the rest of America. It spreads, rather than refutes, disinformation. It is tongue-tied on racial and gender issues. It is obsessed with conflict and finding two sides; with the horserace and with gotchas. It values access to the powerful over giving voice to the voiceless. It prizes optics over substance; and cynicism over hope.
Trump and Trumpism further exposed – and exploited — all of those weaknesses.
At this point, no one can possibly argue that political journalism has fulfilled its essential missions of creating an informed electorate and holding the powerful accountable.
But our top newsroom leaders have seen no need for a course change. In particular, they have failed to respond to the growing asymmetry between the political parties, even as one became overtly counter-majoritarian, anti-democratic, and unmoored to reality.
This website is intended to agitate for change. It encourages reporters to fight disinformation more enthusiastically and effectively, especially when our democracy and people’s lives are at stake. It identifies best practices that others can emulate. It urges the reality-based parts of the industry to explicitly condemn Fox News and other far-right propaganda outlets as disinformation operations.
For more about Press Watch’s goals, please read its mission statement.
In addition to frequent blog posts and a constant barrage of tweets, expect to see interview with current and former journalists on practical and realistic ways political journalists at our top news organizations could do a better job.
The industry and its supporters have focused a lot of energy on exploring how the media can increase its credibility with the public. Press Watch’s view is that we lose credibility by not fighting more assertively for the truth.
About Dan Froomkin
Dan Froomkin, the editor of Press Watch, is a trailblazer in the area of online accountability journalism with over two decades of experience building, editing and contributing to websites including the Huffington Post, The Intercept, and the Nieman Foundation’s Watchdog Project. Over 12 years at the Washington Post, he served as Editor of the website and wrote its enormously popular White House Watch column, which aggregated and amplified insightful political coverage. He has taught online journalism at the Poynter Institute and the American University Graduate School of Communication. You can reach him at email@example.com.