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Remarks From Sarah McClendonRemarks by Sarah McClendon to PNClassroom Editor Chris Long
April 29, 1997
I'm very much in agreement with Ed Diamond. The polls don't mean much. I don't think the public cares exactly how the press works. I think there's entirely too much attention being given to how the media works, or doesn't work. It's sort of disgusting. We ought to be talking about how to get more information out, more stories out.
Too much attention is being given to whether people like the media, or don't like it. They've never really liked the press. They're not supposed to particularly like the press. What people like is more and more information, and information that's presented clearly.
I think that too much of the reporting today has too much of the writer's opinion in the first few lines. The reporters are showing their like or their dislike of the president. This is not what the people need or want. In fact, it turns the public off, makes them dislike the writer and dislike the format.
I think the press should spend more time getting out stories that are important and not being covered and less time on whether they are popular or not. There's nothing more boring than for people to talk so much about the media, and not the stories. What we need is to quit talking about ourselves. The public couldn't care less. They are not interested in the way we do things. They are interested in what we turn out by the way of news.
We need more investigative reporting, because we haven't half told what's going on in the government today. When a reporter writes a story what they ought to do is tell the news and then down at the bottom, if it concerns a federal agency, add on a few paragraphs explaining what the agency does and how it works. People are so ignorant. They need much more information from us.
We don't know how the money is spent in the Pentagon. If we did, the public would be absolutely so shocked they'd stop it. We don't understand the issues of the environment that we keep talking about. We don't understand the International Monetary Fund. There are so many things in government that are just gray areas for understanding and yet we print the names and talk about the agencies all the time without explaining.
We should tear the veil of secrecy off the government. I really think each government agency should be forced to have a summary--in plain English, no government bureaucratese--on its front door, explaining what this government agency does.
The Washington press may be more liberal than the rest of the country but what does that mean? Is that a sin, is that a crime? Doesn't liberal mean that you look at all sides of a thing, you moderate, you don't come down with a conservative, right-wing lever to hurt people? You may be on the side of government being tied to the people or you may not. But the point of it is that being liberal is a way of looking at life.
Reporters have always been more comfortable with Democrats than Republicans. Reporters have always said the Democratic national conventions were fun, the Republicans were stuffy and not fun. Democrats are more open than the Republicans, and they have more events. That makes news. I have voted both sides. I voted for a Republican once in a strategic presidential election. I spent hours and hours, trying to decide how I would vote. Crying about it, praying about it, and finally voted Republican. But I vote more Democratic because I'm more in tune with their views. I believe in helping people.
I don't know whether the press is more cynical nowadays. Those are abstract words that don't mean much to me. I don't think you can gauge that. If a reporter's cynical, they're no good as a reporter. The reporters I work with are trying to find out what's going on. The more they find out, the less cynical they are.
The press is exposing more people than ever before and I think that's good. It's too bad the public doesn't realize that democracy and the press go together.