Thursday, February 13, 2014

How political journalists gave up the freakin' plot

You've all seen the headlines. Here's one from today:


As someone who loves looking at the big picture, I am particularly glad to see Jay Rosen write about this kind of thing. He zero's in on that second article by Chris Cillizza in a piece aptly titled: Behold how badly our political journalists have lost the freakin' plot.
Nobody knows exactly when it happened. But at some point between Teddy White’s The Making of the President, 1960 and the Willie Horton ads in 1988, political journalism in this country lost the plot. When it got overly interested in the inside game, it turned you and me and everyone who has to go into the voting booth and make a decision into an object of technique, which it then tried to assess. We became the people on whom the masters of politics practiced their craft. Then political journalism tried to recover an audience from the people it had turned into poll numbers and respondents to packaged stimuli. Tricky maneuver.
In other words, political journalists turned their focus away from being the source of information to become analysts of the power game. Voters/citizens are objectified via the assumption that we are merely the field on which these games are played.

This is why Chuck Todd can so blithely claim that its not his job to call out the lies being told about Obamacare. Its not because he is a tool of the GOP. Its because he literally doesn't think its his job to provide the public with accurate information about policies. He thinks his job is to analyze what works/doesn't work for the power players in politics.

It really is fascinating to read Chris Cillizza's article with this frame in mind. The whole thing is a dismissal of the importance of the facts in the CBO report about Obamacare in favor of analyzing how GOP candidates will spin it. Cillizza even goes so far as to suggest that he and other journalists are merely the victims of all this by suggesting that no one would listen to them if they tried to be the purveyors of actual information.
You overestimate the media's ability to (a) cut through the clutter or (b) change peoples' minds about what's true and what's not. As I noted above, people, largely, believe what they want to believe. And that's even more true in a siloed media world where conservatives read, listen to and watch content that affirms their beliefs and liberals do the same.
He's basically throwing in the towel there. Cillizza uses confirmation bias and the "siloed media" as an excuse to give up on doing actual journalism. Instead he retreats into the D.C. village bubble to tell us who's winning/losing the power game. In that sense, I'd alter Rosen's title to: Behold how badly our political journalists gave up the freakin' plot.

So whether you are a liberal or a conservative, next time you see a headline like the one's above, think about what the author is saying to you..."how politics affects you is not my concern." And then look elsewhere for some actual information.

2 comments:

  1. Really nice analysis, Nancy. Thank you. Their cynicism is staggering. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

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  2. In other words, political journalists turned their focus away from being the source of information to become analysts of the power game. Voters/citizens are objectified via the assumption that we are merely the field on which these games are played..
    *****************************
    There was a time when the Information was the star ...not the reporter...that was before news became entertainment...before the advent of cable "news" programs...before the advent of new "jocks" such as Limbaugh who peddle opinions as if they are fact....
    trouble is...there is an electorate who cannot tell the difference..

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