Political Exchange



Political Reporting


Read all the remarks from:
Edwin Diamond
  • Round One
  • Round Two
  • Round Three
  • Round Four Questions and Answers
  • Round Five

    Sarah McClendon

  • Round One
  • Round Two
  • Round Three
  • Round Four Questions and Answers
  • Round Five

    Paul Starobin

  • Round One
  • Round Two
  • Round Three
  • Round Four Questions and Answers
  • Round Five


  • Remarks From Sarah McClendon

    In the fourth round of the Political Exchange, the participants responded to questions selected by PoliticsNow Classroom's academic editor Melvin Dubnick.

    Remarks by Sarah McClendon to PNClassroom Editor Chris Long
    May 1, 1997

    1. I think it's a great advantage to the profession. It will bring out more subjects, more discussion, and throw off some of the limits that have been imposed on journalism in the past. I don't think any of us knows how people will process all this information but it will develop. It will lessen the importance of editors, and let everyone participate in journalism.

    The Internet has the potential to decentralize the federal government as well as the media. The good and practical reasons for establishing a central seat of government on the East Coast that existed 200 years ago may not be so today with the advances in communications and transportation technologies. This is not an absolutely new thought. It's been brought up many times before. I think it would be very good for the country to scatter the federal offices and agencies around the country. Different regions have different ideas. We might learn more about our government. And it would be awfully good for the press corps to get some variety. It seems to me there's such sameness in the Washington press corps today--all orbiting around the same sun, or neglecting the same subjects.

    2. We're supposed to be reporters, reflecting what the people think about, what they're interested in. We try to go by the standards we learned when we were learning about journalism from our elders. We're not deciding what the culture will be--we're reflectors. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to know what the public is interested in. I read the newspapers, I hear what people are asking about. Then there are some things people are not asking about because they don't know about it. But I do try to reflect in my questions to presidents what people out there would ask if they were here. Many of them write me and use those very words: "You are representing me. You ask what I want to know about." One thing I should add: I've been fortunate in that I'm allowed to be an independent. I'm not bound by any corporation or any big editor telling me what I can write about. That independence is great--I wish everyone could have it. I avoid pack journalism. I despise it. Mr. Starobin said he didn't understand why I said that reporters are fearful of editors. Well, reporters like to eat.

    3. There's a lot of wonderment about the choices of producers to bring certain subjects, certain personalities to the screen. We think they could do better. People are getting fed up with the same personalities on the same panels all the time, and one person jumping from one panel to the other. Too many of the same personalities are on these shows, and that means the same subject matter. People feel they're being dictated to.

    4. That's silly, very stupid, and it wouldn't be possible. We don't need that. We need to find out what we are in the United States, who we are. We need more common communications, more common thought. It would help us be more united if we had it. That's why I think the summit on volunteerism was in many ways of great benefit to the country. The press should be writing about what the public's interested in, what they need. We have a tendency to take up subjects and keep on the them for days.

    5. I deplore that myself. It's disgusting. I'm horrified sometimes. It's not really journalism when they do that. And sometimes they're not really journalists. They're people who've been allowed to get in on the communications industry from some sideline. They're really acting as representatives of a party or organization aligned with one side or the other, conservative or liberal.

    6. I call myself a "citizen journalist." What you're talking about is not a fad, it's a development, a growing education as a nation. It's a development of an awareness of many implications. When you write a story now, you're not just writing about one angle, you're writing about as many angles as you can conceive of. I'm trying to take into consideration as I write the Constitution, the nation, the nation's needs. I might add on a few paragraphs now and then that other people might lop off but I add them to explain things. But it's somebody else's responsibility to provide solutions to the problems that the press reveals. If I were going in for solutions, I might be considered as editorializing. And I don't have the technical knowledge. Reporters have enough to do just investigating and getting out the stories. We're growing in citizenship. Sometimes I think we're babies, and the solutions will gradually come as we learn more about our government agencies and what they do and what's behind them. We're growing in citizenship, and knowledge of government. Give us some time. There are people out there who will find solutions.