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Round Three Analysis & Discussion QuestionsBy Melvin J. Dubnick
PoliticsNow Classroom, April 30, 1997
Round three has ED DIAMOND considering what ought to be done about improving political journalism and focusing on the need to educate the next generation of reporters with appropriate role models for the profession. Many of them are not well known, but their legacies should be passed along in the classroom.
PAUL STAROBIN asks his colleagues to show him the examples of reporter timidity and some of the other characteristics that seem to plague the political press corps. He feels there are also contrary examples indicating that things are not as bad as noted by many observers. Culture and political bias are factors in the work of the media, but there is little that can be done about that. There are powerful forces and trends influencing political reporting, but Starobin wants evidence of how they have shaped the work of the press.
The quality of reporting has as much to do with the quality of sources as with the talents of the reporters. SARAH MCCLENDON offers her views on White House press secretaries she has encountered over the years. She gives high marks to James Hagerty, Eisenhower's press secretary, and is critical of Bill Moyers who had the job during the Johnson administration. Today the problem is the dominance of TV reporters -- and the deference the White House gives them.
Discussion Questions1. Ed Diamond suggests that the best lessons for future journalists are those drawn from outstanding role models of the past. How appropriate is such a strategy in a era when the very nature of media technology and political reporting is undergoing change?
2. Sarah McClendon's comments about White House press secretaries raises the issue of relationships between reporters and their sources. Some critics of the Washington press corps believe that reporters are too dependent -- and sometimes too close -- to their sources. And yet many journalists cannot do their job effectively if they fail to maintain those contacts. What should be the relationship between reporters and their sources?
3. Paul Starobin raises a similar issue as he reacts to McClendon's admission to having a liberal and Democratic bias. He suggests that there ought to be a rotation policy of some sort so that reporters can maintain their integrity over time. At the same time, such rotations would replace the most informed and experienced reporters with fresh faces who have to "learn the ropes" from day one. What do you think of Starobin's suggestion? Would the benefits of a rotation policy outweigh the possible drawbacks?