Networked Journalism Education

Archive for January, 2018

We need you to do better

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Dear editors of news organizations:

Enough already.

Politics in Washington has become a national nightmare and you are making it worse.

The ticker on CNN for two days has been about who to blame for the shutdown. The New York Times leads with “bitter bickering.” “Partisan fighting” can be found in nearly every account of the government shutdown. The tax bill coverage was nonstop speculation about who was winning and who was losing — confined entirely to those working in Washington DC.

This type of coverage causes people to throw up — their hands, their heads and everything else. The sheer awfulness of the current rhetoric makes even those who love following politics turn off their televisions and close their laptops. News stories focusing on blame and on winning and losing exacerbates political outrage and apathy — the exact emotions we need less of. Your coverage impels most people to retreat from anything having to do with politics, leaving power to the few wealthy enough to use it to enrich their own personal interests.

We have politicians and political strategists who work actively for this outcome because it serves their candidates and causes. We have politicians who know they win if they can turn ordinary people against each other. If we want to remain a democratic country, then we must do everything possible to counter this active and pervasive undermining of democratic institutions and actions.

As has been noted hundreds of times this year in media critiques, avoid wall-to-wall coverage of the political gamesmanship of the second — the tweet, the intrigue, the backstabbing — and instead focus relentlessly on the actual tradeoffs, policies and consequences of what is being debated. Be so much more creative in showing the things that have consequence with color and drama and sweep.

When a Republican says that the Democrats are sacrificing the health of American children to save immigrants — let your coverage be so clear and to the point and consistent and deep that people know what part of that is true or what is not. Put the history of CHIP on a timeline. Identity the places where the funding could be expended. Summarize the changing policies that have been introduced in Congress about Dreamers. Follow along as policy is made. Educate people on the big picture as well as the minute. And please, write as if the policy matters. Write with an eye to what the parties stand for, and not just a blow-by-blow of petty bickering that makes the entire nation binge watch Netflix shows instead of following the news.

When ordinary people lose faith in the system, democracy fails. Please don’t hasten the process.

Written by Donica

January 21st, 2018 at 4:59 pm