I think that too much of what happens, especially in our politics, is that we accept it happening underneath the table. We go, “Well that’s just politics.

( Stephen Colbert )

“You’re not entitled to your own facts” vs. That’s your opinion. Kiss my ad.

Do people care about the truth? What happens if political leaders lie, the media calls them out on it, and citizens don’t care? Do people only care about the truth when it suits their own partisan beliefs? I find this glumly interesting.

My mom used to call it disagreeing without being disagreeable. I just think of it as a better way of telling the story well. I think any of my WashWeek panelists and any number of our NewsHour guests will tell you that’s what they like about doing the show - the chance to explain why and how, and let the viewer reach his or her own conclusions.

( Gwen Ifill on the ‘Dearth of Civility in the Public Square’ (via newshour)

(via newshour)


The New Yorker covers featuring politicians.

(Source: newyorker.com)

Irony, Access and the Decline of Good Political Interviews



One of the remarkable things about watching media members interview politicians these days is just how bad the questions are. The journalist inevitably starts with a softball set up question that allows the candidate to offer some version of their stump speech for an answer. The journalist either follows up with a second softball on the same topic, or moves on. Notably, the more outrageous the candidate’s claim, the more inclined the journalist is to just move on … to not challenge the candidate’s comment.

There are lots of reasons for this—journalists are for the most part generalists, for example, and so usually lack the technical knowledge they would need to challenge the candidate’s comments. This is one of the reasons Newt Gingrich gets away with a lot of the twaddle he spews: the people asking him the question don’t know why his statements are nonsense (e.g., the Palestinians are an “invented” people), and so let him slide.

But I want to suggest another reason why so many journalists’ questions have gotten so lame: the problem of access.

See, for a long time elected leaders and other politicians struggled to get noticed by the media, especially television. They had to subject themselves to rigorous questioning and meaningful dialogue with reporters if they wanted to get access to television and thus an opportunity to promote their agenda. Engagement was the price of access—politicians had to agree to real interaction with the media if they wanted access to that most precious of resources: TV time.

Today, the situation is entirely reversed. Things like internet video streaming, the ubiquity of blog posts, and the emergence of multiple and niche “news” networks desperate to fill programming time in an over-saturated market have worked to create a world in which pretty much anyone can get access to some means to advance their message. There is intense competition for the good “get”: the interview that will draw attention to the media source. In other words, the world of access has been turned upside down: where politicians once clamored for attention, and were willing to face real questions in order to earn their way into the spotlight, now politicians and other leaders are in a position to choose which, if any, outlets in which they wish to advance their message. Leaders choose journalists and networks, not the other way around.

One consequence of this has been the rise of “pet” media. For conservatives, it’s FOX: once FOX is on your side, you know FOX will never ask a serious question or otherwise challenge your use of their network to spin your agenda. MSNBC does something similar with liberal politicians. The price of “winning” an interview is to softball it once you get it. It is the politician setting the tone of the conversation, not the journalist.

And what happens if you transgress? If you are a journalist who gets a good interview but then actually follows up with tough questions, etc? Well, it’s obvious: you lose access. The political leader and all their supporters never go on your show or talk to you or your colleagues again. They withdraw that which is precious—access—and leave you with a void to try to fill with content.

Which you of course are reluctant to face. And your producer or editor is even less reluctant to face, since they have to pay the unit’s bills. So the message from the top is clear: play along. Otherwise we lose money—and you lose your job.

So we get wussy questions followed by bad answers followed by distractions and irrelevancies. Ironically, increased opportunities to explore the political universe has made it possible for politicians to seemingly be on the air all the time, but never to say anything meaningful.

Which is exactly how they like it.

Bolded for emphasis. This is a great read, which will become increasingly relevant over the next 11 months.

(via pantslessprogressive)

Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman on mainstream media’s failure


BILL MOYERS: Watching the news over the over the last two days, while Obama, President Obama, is in London. Watching all of the demonstrators there, some of them violent and militant, but thousands of them not. Marching to a bank, and protesting. I thought of something you wrote recently. You said that for the magnitude of this financial crisis, there should be a lot more popular rage in this country. Why do you think there isn’t? Because the taxi driver this morning, coming down here, to me, was angry as hell.

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, it’s interesting. I think there actually is a lot more rage, and a lot more anger, and a lot more dissatisfaction. I mean, even before this financial crisis. If you looked the polling data in America, it was really extraordinary. They would ask citizens, do you think the country is on the right track or on the wrong track? Profoundly or mildly? And it was something like 85 percent of Americans said that the government was profoundly off course. Institutions across the board have fallen, almost collapsed, in terms of the esteem with which the public holds them. And so, I think there is a very pervasive anger on the part of the citizenry. Not with a particular political party, or a particular politician, or a particular ideology, but with the way in which fundamentally the government and the elites, what we’ve been calling the establishment, are functioning in a self interested manner, in which they’re operating. And I think one of the reasons why that is diminished and obscured is precisely, because, if you look at what the quote from Evan Thomas says. And there’s lot of others, from media stars, where they say the same thing. They are not on the outside of the establishment, they are members of the establishment. They work for the largest corporations. They live in Washington. Socio-economically, their colleagues and partners and family members are people within the government, within the establishment. And what they want to do is to protect and defend the establishment, more than anything else. To protect the idea that the establishment is functioning properly. And so, their interest is to minimize the public anger and the public rage.

BILL MOYERS: When Tim Russert died, I thought they should ask Jon Stewart to take over at “Meet the Press” because he would go after the elites, and liberated everybody else in Washington would follow suit, and break up that cozy game.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, look, what is it that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert represent? They represent what Izzy Stone said. Governments lie. And every day, as they make us laugh, and also make you cry when you think about the reality of it. They are exposing what the hypocrites are saying. And we accept it, because it’s considered comedy. But it is a, it’s so important, when you look at it compared to the mainstream press.

GLENN GREENWALD: Let me just….

BILL MOYERS; Yes. No please.

GLENN GREENWALD: The idea that Jon Stewart would be his replacement is something that would never happen. Why? Because one of the focal points of Jon Stewart’s commentary is how corrupt the media is, in particular cable news television shows are. So, NBC will never broadcast a fundamental media criticism because they are implicated by it. Why would General Electric, the corporation that owns NBC News want to put on their air somebody who makes an eloquent and articulate case against the military state and imperialistic and aggressive foreign policies from which they benefit so greatly or be a fundamental critic of the government, the federal government, on whom General Electric relies? It’s contrary to their interest.

This is around twelve minutes in, but the whole interview is so amazing. Amy Goodman is badass and I’d really like to see her on TDS one of these days.

(Source: pbs.org)