Journalism for people, not power

Journalism is trying very hard to do better, but still failing America. Media is covering politics and not “We, the people”.

Take the coverage of the Republican attempt to neuter congressional oversight and subsequent retreat amidst tremendous scrutiny. Coverage typically read “Donald Trump tweeted about this and by the way a ton of people called their congressperson.” The coverage is focused on what a person in power says. A fascination with celebrity and power.

It’s not focused on the readers, or the people who bear the actions of politicians. Certainly not the disadvantaged who can’t even keep up with politics because they have neither a) the money for a newspaper subscription or b) the time to follow it all between multiple jobs and possibly a family.

It’s focused on what politicians are saying the people want. It’s easy to get a politician to talk about this. That’s part of their job now, skating the public discourse towards the laws they want to pass.

It’s focused on what think tanks want to talk about. Those talking heads on TV and think pieces on the opinion pages? It’s easy to get those people to talk because they’re paid to do those things by giant lobbies and interest groups. They’re paid to get in front of people and tell them what laws they should want.

Journalism should counteract these extensions of the corporate state. When a politician, funded by a lobby, says “the people want affordable health care”, a print or television journalist should say “and here’s what three people not involved in politics actually said”. Maybe they’ll agree with their politicians, maybe they won’t!

When a politician says “we should lower taxes on the top tax bracket”, media should follow up with that that means. Who exactly gets that tax break? Will actually benefit other people? What do people who don’t benefit from that tax break gain or lose because of it.

The next news cycle will come up, the politicians will say one thing. The truth and tradeoffs will reflect another truth. The journalists will go out there and talk about the tradeoffs and what people think now. And then maybe we’ll get a more educated society.

Likely this means the sports and entertainment pages have to subsidize the political coverage. Or we need to start recognizing pieces stuffed with quotes from think tanks and politicians as “advertorial” and not news.

Regardless, political journalism as zero-sum entertainment has to go.

3 thoughts on “Journalism for people, not power

  1. “Journalism should counteract these extensions of the corporate state.”

    when the media is owned by 6 giant corporations, why on earth would they dream of doing that?

    “Likely this means the sports and entertainment pages have to subsidize the political coverage.”

    the companies covering/creating/producing/selling the sports and entertainment are already the same companies.

    the missing key of your plan is that “the people” are happy to eat crap. theyre eating it and theyre happy. sure, youre fed up– lots of people are fed up. there arent enough of you to matter– you still own a tv, in an age where it is not 50, not 85, but 100% unnecessary for anything (including sports and entertainment.)

  2. I don’t think you’re wrong, but I’m trying not to be that cynical. I hope that people want to know the real truth and that the business of journalism can make a major course correction to hold up their end of the bargain.

  3. i dont think im wrong either. if you watch channel 4 in the uk, its a lot more critical of things that would simply never air in the us. that said, there are countless countries that for example, decided to back the us in policies and actions that were illegal internationally, and criticized even by former president (and cia director) bush sr. yet thanks to the media, it was not possible to offer the same critiques former president bush himself offered, without being treated like a “whiner” or even “un-american.”

    if that doesnt prove that the media have completely betrayed the country, keep following them. theyre not merely useless, theyre scum. now that the monopoly is threatened by things like facebook (admittedly NOT the best example, though still relevant to the point) we have the current president creating this “fake news” thing into law. on the one hand, no one is using the 1st amendment freedom of the press. on the other hand, theyre trying to create a blank check exception, where the government interferes with an non-state-sanctioned alternative (ndaa 2016.) this is how fascism happens. and they will blame it all on trump, who to be fair, just showed up after all this happened. (not saying hes innocent, im saying hes just one person in a much larger picture.) theres nothing left for the press to do but have the whole nest of rats replaced with a non-nest-of-rats. give it another decade or two, its been going on that long already.

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