Read all the remarks from:
Round One Analysis & Discussion QuestionsBy Melvin J. Dubnick
PoliticsNow Classroom, April 28, 1997
SARAH MCCLENDON launches the Exchange with a wide ranging criticism of today's political reporting. Among her complaints: reporters are timid, interesting stories go uncovered, and there is too much editorializing in the stories that are covered. Who's at fault? Publishers and editors are partly to blame, but so are the timid journalists, an administration that doesn't know how relate to the press, and even an ignorant public. The picture is not all dismal, however, and McClendon sees some hope in the emergence of the Internet as a news source.
PAUL STAROBIN puts the controversy over political reporting in historical context, noting that public skepticism and charges of bias are not without precedent or foundation. He considers the current perceived crisis as a result of the behavior of highly visible "buckrakers" who sometimes act like "trained bears" rather than professionals. As for the mainstream Washington press corps, Starobin suggests actions that would enhance the integrity of political reporting through a strategy of diversity that goes beyond racial and gender considerations.
EDWIN DIAMOND challenges the notion that political reporting is facing a crisis. He questions the credibility and value of the Pew Center's polls and attacks judgements based on the perception of the media as a monolith. The news media is in fact comprised of literally thousands of outlets - now complemented by "the whole blooming, buzzing world of the Internet." For Diamond, today's press-bashing ignores the exciting and "messy" world of journalism today -- a world that he argues is a vast improvement over the "old days" of political reporting.
Discussion Questions1. Ed Diamond's comments about the Pew Research polls dismiss their value on the grounds that they are the opinion of "750 or 1,200 distracted citizens". Having studied public opinion and polls earlier in your course, would you agree or disagree with that characterization of the results? Why or why not?
2. Sarah McClendon sees the concentration of media ownership as a key factor shaping political journalism. In contrast, Ed Diamond talks about the diversity of media outlets that create the rich reporting he sees on the American political scene. Which of these images of the modern media best describes the current situation? Do you agree that concentrated ownership and/or outlet diversity shape political reporting?
3. Paul Starobin blames the erosion of public trust in the media on the media stars of the Washington press corps, and he believes it is up to the mainstream professionals to counter their influence. But this might be difficult if (as James Fallows argues in his controversial book, Breaking The News) young journalists strive to achieve the status and rewards of the "buckrakers". What, if anything, can be done to offset the attractiveness of the "trained bears"? What kind of role models would have to take their place?