Written by Rehman Tungekar (KBIA radio)
With campaign reporters endlessly tracking the political horse race and fact checkers providing real time assessments, voters are now facing a glut of information. But how effective is all this extra journalism? With all the political advertising and all the management by campaigns, what are voters supposed to believe? And, how could political reporters more effectively cover elections?
These were some of the questions that KBIA’s Intersection sought out to answer this week, with a panel of two esteemed journalists: Dan Gillmor, Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, and Andrea Seabrook, who previously served as NPR’s congressional reporter. Seabrook eventually decided to strike out on her own to start a new political reporting project called Decode D.C.
In Seabrook’s opinion, political reporters in the capitol have become a mouthpiece for savvy politicians. Her argument holds that journalists, in a rush to cover every press release and conference, don’t really properly scrutinize what they’re told. Politicians, knowing this, will then only put out the message that they want repeated in the media. It’s a devastating accusation, but Seabrook believes that it’s a result of shrinking revenues, and the constraints placed on newsrooms.
“I think it’s harder now for journalists to take the time that it takes to report on these things in a different way,” Seabrook said. “I also think news organizations are trying to do more coverage with less money, and fewer journalists.”
Both Seabrook and Gillmor believe that not only is it a journalist’s responsibility to properly assess statements made by lawmakers, but that they should call a politician out if they’re outright lying. And both agreed that newsrooms treat candidates with a false equivalency in an effort to seem unbiased.
So, in light of this dismal assessment of the media landscape, what’s a voter to do? Gillmor believes that it’s now incumbent on voters to do more to stay informed. This includes finding news sources that they trust and, perhaps just as importantly, exposing themselves to other sources that they may not agree with, so as to be sure that they’re not missing other important information.
“I learn more from people that think I’m wrong than from people that think I’m right,” Gillmor said.
That may not be an unrealistic expectation of citizens. Seabrook believes that voters are developing a more sophisticated antenna when it comes to news coverage, particularly among young people. According to her, there’s persistent belief that the political system is broken, and as a result, there’s a need to find out how we got to this point. She believes the demand for substantive reporting is there. It’s just up to news organizations to meet that need.
What do you think? Who are your trusted sources of news? And what recommendations would you have from journalists? Let us know by sending an email to submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com.
And to watch the full interview with Andrea Seabrook and Dan Gillmor, follow this link.