Well, maybe we’re getting some consensus here. After all, the country’s foremost media critic (he said with little attempt to hide his sarcasm) has stumbled upon a novel concept for today’s journalists: Point out, gently I presume, that a politician, or anyone who has the ear of the almighty reporters, doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s talking about.
Gently, of course.
Howard Kurtz: Yes, there is a point where the media should say a politician is wrong, and this is the point. There may or may not be a legitimate discussion about the end-of-life counseling in the Obama health plan (which is voluntary, by the way) and whether it is intrusive. It’s a long way from that to "death panels," even by the loose rhetorical standards of modern politics. I was surprised that the ex-governor’s Facebook comments didn’t get much pickup at first, though that is starting to change in the last couple of days. As I noted in this morning’s column, wasn’t it Sarah Palin who demanded that journalists "quick making things up"?
Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are decried for calling the town hall protests “un-American.” (Let’s forget that those same charges were frequently leveled by Republicans at those protesting the Iraq War.) And Steve Pearlstein has been taken to task for calling Republicans “political terrorists.”
But if we are to look for someone to blame for the level of discourse in this country, I think we know who to blame.
For after all, it’s still true that if a tree falls in the woods and no one can hear it, it doesn’t make a noise. It may make a sound but noise is something you can’t avoid. And today, you can’t avoid the shouting masses at meetings who aren’t just airing their grievances, they are preventing others from hearing anyone but them.
Because the media has decided we need to hear it, whether it makes sense or has any connection to reality.
You and I can raise all the hell we want about the state of journalism today, but it mostly falls on deaf ears. What’s needed is someone with cojones who is the subject of media coverage to call reporters out on it.
Conventional wisdom says you never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel. But conventional wisdom, not so long ago, would also dictate that you don’t report the sky is yellow just because someone made the claim.
Whether it’s President Obama or anyone else in public life, they need to start holding journalists accountable for their coverage, which is to a large degree the result of laziness and lack of editorial leadership.
It’s easy to write about a boisterous town hall. All your evidence is in one place. You can easily get quotes from both sides and generally give both sides equal weight, and boom, you’re out the door and into your favorite journalists’ barroom where everyone complains about the shrinking market for their increasingly marginal skills.
If just once, someone would say when asked a question about the meaning of the loudmouths at town hall meetings, “ Mr. Gregory, that’s the wrong question. It’s the easy to question ask, because it absolves you from doing some work. Instead of reading the health care bill and trying to help the public understand what’s being proposed, what the pros and cons are, you react to a mob. You allow over-the-top behavior save you from doing work. It’s a stupid question and I won’t entertain it. Next question.”
The powers that be need to challenge a lazy, inept press. If they won’t do the job their supposed to do – inform the public about the the pertinent issues of the day – then the hell with them. Stop doing press conferences, stop doing press briefings, stop taking any questions. Communicate directly to the public.
Let newspapers die. They deserve to.