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.