Last week in class we discussed how different media organizations covered the government shutdown: how much time they spent focusing on it, what aspects they did focus on, etc. I did a little research on how the media feels the media handled the shutdown, with some interesting results.
James Fallows writes for The Atlantic, “any story that presents the disagreements as a ‘standoff’ … or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on.”
Fallows says that, furthermore, the disagreement in Congress that lead to the shutdown was painted in typical Democrat/Republican terms, but was really triggered by divisions within the Republican Party. He says, “We’re used to thinking that the most important disagreements are between the major parties, not within one party; and that disagreements over policies, goals, tactics can be addressed by negotiation or compromise.”
The fact that the media was thinking in these terms despite the uniqueness of the situation, one Fallows says is different from anything we’ve ever learned about or been taught to expect, is not only a failure, but is, as Dan Froompkin writes for Al-Jazeera America, possibly dangerous in today’s extreme political climate:
“The political press should be the public’s first line of defense when it comes to assessing who is deviating from historic norms and practices, who is risking serious damage to the nation, whose positions are based in irrational phobias and ignorance rather than data and reason. Instead journalists have been suckered into embracing “balance” and “neutrality” at all costs, and the consequences of their choice in an era of political extremism will only get worse and worse.”
In class, most people seemed to think the media was doing an okay job of reporting the shutdown. Do these new ideas make you rethink your original thoughts?