Debating the state of American political journalism

Last week, blog-innovator and Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren wrote a scathing critique of political journalism in this election year, arguing that reporters — like myself — are failing the American people.

We are “ignoring the issues and perpetrating the lies of machine candidates.”

He compared this cabal between journalists and politicians to the Tammany Hall fix that existed in 19th century New York City.  ” You, dear political reporters, are now holding the keys to the hall.”

You can read John Warren’s full critique here.  Now let me share some thoughts about how he’s right, and how (I think) he’s for the most part really, really wrong.

First, I do think that journalism is in crisis in America.

The fundamental business model has been destroyed by the digital revolution, so that once venerable institutions like Newsweek are fading away or shutting down.

That means fewer trained, experienced shoeleather journalists chasing big, complicated stories.

Readers and listeners may not understand this, but it often takes institutional heft to take on big political organizations.  Reporters often need to file (or defend themselves against) big lawsuits in order to crack loose important information.  That’s harder to do in a world where Big Journalism is wounded and maybe dying.

It’s also true that our approach has been weakened by the re-emergence of advocacy journalism as the dominant form of reporting in America.

From Fox News to Huffington Post to DailyKos, a growing number of voters get their information not from neutral reporters, but from activist-journalists.

Those of us who are (still) offering straight-up news are, it seems, swimming against the tide of popular taste.  It’s a good, noble fight, but on many days I’m not sure that independent, objective journalism can survive.

The good news in all this is that the media landscape has exploded in size and diversity.  There are many, many more voices on the wind, carrying information and ideas and distributing that stuff in new and compelling ways.  (More about this in a moment.)

It’s telling that the biggest story of this political season — Mitt Romney’s “47% speech” — was uncovered by Mother Jones and distributed virally (at least at first) on the web.  Conservative journalists have also used new media to push narratives they view as important.

But much of what I’ve just written belies John Warren’s claims about some kind of journalo-politio axis that is working against the interest of informing American citizens and voters.  The concept is, on its face, bosh.

There is no such thing as monolithic “mainstream” journalism and there is no such thing as a single ideologically homogenous ruling class in America.

His argument relies fundamentally on a hard-liberal view about American politics which is factually, demonstrably false:  the idea that both major political parties are essentially one single plutocratic entity.  Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are, he argues “two thoroughbreds with the same owner and trainer.”

This is not an argument about journalism.  It’s Warren’s argument that journalists should adopt one particular (and particularly bad) narrative about our two major political parties.

Take our current presidential race.  Anyone examining the political histories of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will know that their actions and their policies differ in material ways that will have substantive impact on the lives of real Americans.

To cite one example:  Pro-choice voters are convinced (rightly, I think) that Obama would appoint supreme court justices over the next four years who support maintaining legal access to abortion in the US, while pro-life voters are convinced (again, rightly) that Romney would appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

The two candidates also have wildly divergent views about equal pay for women, immigration, and military spending.  That is, as they say in my business, news.

Now, John Warren’s real complaint is that while focusing our attention on politicians and organizations that have the very real power to affect all of our lives, we spend little time or energy focusing on parties and politicians who have no power to do so.

He suggests that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If only we gave equal coverage to fringe candidates who do not have even a remote chance of winning elections or holding office, we would throw open the gates of power to a wider range of ideas, and a broader class of people.

It is the argument of an activist, not a journalist.  Our role (at least in my old fashioned corner of journalism) is to tell true stories about what is happening, not to encourage certain things to happen.

As I’ve said before, if the Green Party wants to mobilize an interesting, compelling, vibrant national campaign — following in the footsteps, say, of the Occupy movement or the Tea Party movement — journalists like myself would certainly cover it.

In his essay, Warren suggests that we should focus considerable attention on the views of Green Party candidate Jill Stein and allow her to take part in all the major political events, including debates and forums.  But why?

From her official bio, her only elected or political positions held in the past is that she “has twice been elected to town meeting in Lexington, Massachusetts. She is the founder and past co-chair of a local recycling committee appointed by the Lexington Board of Selectmen.”

The fact that Stein is running on the Green Party line is little more relevant than if she claimed to be running on the Purple Party line.  The Greens have little history of winning races at even the most local level.  (My search for elected Green officials turned up a few small-community mayors across the US.)

The bottom line is that Warren conflates the roles of journalists and activists, and he misunderstands (rather badly) the ways that political power functions in America, as illustrated by his chief complaint here.

Yes, Stein is irrelevant in the 2012 presidential race.  That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s not because reporters failed to cover her election or her recent arrest.

One final point.

In the new media landscape, there is absolutely no reason that Warren’s Adirondack Almanack can’t cover political issues, local, regional, or national.  Yet a search of the Almanack’s archives appears to find no mentions — zero, not one — of Jill Stein’s candidacy before this essay was posted criticizing other outlets.

Search under “Green Party” and you’ll find that every couple of years, Warren mentions that organization as part of a scold aimed of other media.  “Why are you ignoring the Greens?” But then, in the intervening years, he drops them entirely from his own radar.  No coverage, no discussion, no interviews…nothing.

(I may have this wrong.  I’m relying on Warren’s search engine for my data.)

So here’s my (yes, tongue in cheek) question to John Warren:  If you are in the know about all the cool, interesting tings that Jill Stein and the Greens have to say to the world, why are you covering it up?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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61 Comments on “Debating the state of American political journalism”

  1. Dave says:

    I once believed there were no meaningful differences between the two parties.

    8 years of George Bush, 9/11, a war of choice, and an economic disaster proved me wrong.

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  2. Peter Hahn says:

    That charge of not covering the fringe politicians has been around as long as i can remember. As has the silly argument that there is no difference between the two major parties. In our system, the two major parties are coalitions of various groups – and they are very different groups. There are parliamentary systems where the coalitions are formed after the elections from a (potentialy) bunch of fringe candidates. But the result is pretty much the same. They end up with left of center or right of center governments. I doubt that the fringe candidate’s ideas get more or better coverage in those countries. I am not aware of any far-right or far-left parties emerging to take power. It could happen – Hitler was elected.

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  3. I can’t speak for Warren but my position is not that mainstream journalists should adopt a hostile position toward the two major political parties. It’s that they should abandon the hostile position (the blacklist) they presently hold against smaller political parties. Report fairly and honestly about ALL parties and let people make up their own minds, fully, not partially, informed.

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  4. In any political system a party has relevance equal to their ability to affect change in the society. Voters for Ralph Nader dismissed the charge that by voting for Ralph they were throwing the election to Bush who was the candidate they liked least. They claimed (at least the ones I talked to) that by voting for Nader they “would be sending a message” to whomever won. They were vague about what message they were sending and as far as I could see “W” never received the message at all because I didn’t see him doing anything to respond to their agenda. Those who refused to vote as a way of “sending a message” got the same result, zero, zilch, nada, nothing.

    If the party you are most comfortable with can’t get out of single digits, I’m sorry but your party is irrelevant in a national election. Run and vote for candidates in local and state elections. That’s how you build a party to be relevant but until then, in national elections vote for the Republican or Democrat, whichever one is closest to your philosophy. Anyone who thought there was no difference between Bush and Gore has questionable powers of reason. The same is true in this election. So vote for crying out loud. Don’t stay home and don’t throw away your vote on someone who can’t possibly win.

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  5. Wow, only took two comments to invoke Godwin’s Law. Weak…

    The Nazis gained power with something like 39% of the seats of one house of the national legislature (they had the largest number of seats in the Reichstag, not a “fringe”).

    If we had this system, the Tea Party might be running the government. But we don’t have this system. There are two houses of Congress AND a separate executive to dilute power.

    And it’s pretty dang offensive to compare the Greens of the Libertarians to the Nazis. Pathetic!

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  6. James: you are obviously clueless about the concept of party building. Participating in national and state/local elections is not a one or the other proposition. They compliment each other. Nader’s showing the 2000 did wonders to build up numbers and momentum in the Green Party so they could make more of an impact at the lower levels. The subsequent split in ’04 and ’08 (where many in the party bought the spoiler lie and didn’t back Nader and he ran as an independent and their nominee didn’t run in “battleground” states) hurt the Party in the lower level races. National races give a party visibility. Local and state races are where they can take advantage of that visibility. The two work in tandem.

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  7. Brian M: Based on previous exchanges with you on this and related topics, I think the fundamental difference can be summed up quite simply. You view also covering smaller party candidates as doing their job for them. I view it you doing YOUR job.

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  8. Pete Klein says:

    Brian is correct on all points and I will add money and time, and time is money.
    It takes time and money to cover a story. It takes a great deal of time and money to do investigative reporting.
    In some ways, the various news organizations are facing the same problem being faced by various levels of government.
    How so? Everyone wants this, that and the other thing from government. The problem is that they would prefer not to pay for it.
    The same goes for the news.
    Do you buy a newspaper or a news magazine? Do you donate to public radio and/or TV?

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  9. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    “Our role (at least in my old fashioned corner of journalism) is to tell true stories about what is happening, not to encourage certain things to happen.”

    The problem is not that the MSM isn’t covering true stories, but that they repeat certain stories over and over and over while equally compelling stories get short shrift. My favorite example is the amount of time and space devoted to the ups and downs of the stock market while there is very little space devoted to labor issues.

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  10. Brian Mann says:

    Brian (MOFYC) –

    Yes, I think you sum up our differences nicely, though I would put it in slightly different language.

    I go to work every day with limited time and resources and I work to tell stories about people and things that have a real impact or are interesting.

    In political terms, that means that unless a third party candidate has at least a remote chance of winning (Dough Hoffman, for example), or they are doing something interesting (say, the Occupy movement) I won’t give them much of my scarce time.

    It’s telling that the great insurgent political leaders of modern times didn’t whine about news coverage.

    They fought and organized and used grassroots networks and moral messages to build their support, knowing that press interest would follow. And they were right.

    If Jill Stein wants to be taken seriously by reporters (or anyone else) the least of her obstacles is getting into debates with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney…

    –Brian, NCPR

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  11. The idea that media coverage is trivial for smaller party candidates (who don’t have corporate cash to buy political advertising) is rubbish and shows ignorance of how the world works. It’s either willful ignorance or self-deceit. But either way, it’s telling.

    Don’t tell them how to do their job. You worry about doing yours. That’s the whole point of Warren’s post.

    If you can air 4-minute audio postcards about canoeing trips, then you can spare an extra 15 seconds in a piece to tell what a smaller party candidate(s) thinks. Somehow you managed to do it for Hassig’s crazy comment in the debate and your journalistic sky didn’t fall.

    If you can run dozens of self-indulgent blogs on the presidential race repeating the same sorts of things we can get countless other places, then don’t give me the “I don’t have time or resources to worry about alternative candidates” nonsense.

    You’re probably the best reporter in this area. But this is a huge blind spot of yours.

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  12. This is the last thing I’ll say because your (Brian M’s) mind seems to be closed on this issue, but I’ll take one final stab.

    First, I don’t appreciate you implying that I’m a whiner. I am a loyal NCPR listener and donor. I am giving my feedback about how the news department does things. Judging by the comments on various In Box blogs, I am far from the only person dissatisfied with the two major parties and who is at least actively looking at smaller party and independent candidates. Second, YOU were the one who raised the issue by highlighting John Warren’s piece.

    Second, whether you admit it or not, you clearly do understand at some gut level the value of alternative points of view ignored by the mainstream media. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t read the Adirondack Almanack in the first place (where you saw Warren’s article and was sufficiently moved to expand the discussion).

    Others are looking for such alternatives in politics. In a typical presidential election, the Democrat and Republican candidates COMBINED usually gain the approval of a minority of Americans. A small percentage votes for smaller party/independent votes; about half don’t vote at all. And even many those who do vote Dem/GOP, do so grudgingly. The majority of Americans are looking for alternatives.

    Furthermore, in ignoring such alternatives, you are doing the bidding of the Democrats and Republicans. They want people to think there are only two choices. The Republicans who push a neo-Taliban agenda or the Democrats who represent the middle class (or alternatively the Democrats who want everyone dependent on government or the Republicans who want to free enterprise and to reward hard work). The reasons for this are obvious.

    If more people were made aware of what the Greens and Libertarians (just to cite two parties) stood for, they’d realize that the two corporate parties, while far from identical, are far more similar than either would want you to believe. You might not agree with everything in those parties’ platforms but I defy you to say they don’t offer anything “interesting.” There is far more “meat” for real debate in there than anything you’ll hear Pres. Obama or Mitt Romney intoning.

    To be clear, I don’t want you to be a mouthpiece for the Greens or any other smaller party, nor do I want you to reflexively bash the two corporate parties. I may do those things in the polemics on my blog but I don’t claim it to be journalism. I simply want you to report on all the options and let the voters decide for themselves who is “serious” and who isn’t, rather than you decreeing such things in advance based on what your echo chamber (and yes, you have one) is telling you. Just look at the reaction of your blog commenters. There is far more diversity there than is represented in your electoral reporting.

    For example, you ran an audio piece and a blog piece highlighting Hassig’s outrageous, neo-Bircher comments at the debate. This was a good and useful piece of journalism, even though it reflected a candidate from my own party in a poor light. This piece mattered. I was going to vote for him before I heard this nonsense and some of his own follow up remarks. If you hadn’t run the piece, I would’ve voted differently. And that’s just one piece.

    It shows that covering all the candidates really can make a difference. Not to anyone’s benefit… except the voters’.

    I don’t want to monopolize this thread any further so I’ll leave now.

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  13. oa says:

    Brian, I agree with you. Not only should we ignore Jill Stein, we should arrest her, like they did at the last debate. What a loser she is.

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  14. Brian Mann says:

    Brian OA –

    I’m not suggesting that you’re a whiner. I AM suggesting that the leaders of new political movements over the last hundred years who have changed the world had enough fortitude and cleverness to find ways to organize, get their messages heard and grow support under far, far less duress than Jill Stein faces.

    I happen to think (here’s an unguarded opinion for you) that the Green Party might very well build a sizable base of support in the US, particularly given the relative lack of interest in environmental issues on the part of Democratic candidates.

    Using new and social media, some clever organizing strategies and a coherent message, Ms. Stein might very well build an actual, effective party – or at least a durable movement of some kind. The fact that she (or other leaders in her party) hasn’t done so raises a lot of interesting questions.

    Your indictments would be more significant if she did those things – at least on some primitive, marginal level — and journalists still ignored her. But there is no evidence that we would. Ralph Nader got heaps of attention. So did the Occupy movement.

    Finally, I’ll note (again) that our station has given significant coverage to third party candidates in recent years, including Doug Hoffman, Karen Bisso and Don Hassig. So I do occasionally set aside my canoe paddle to do a story about non-traditional candidates.

    (PS: I do think getting herself arrested was a good bit of political theater. If Jill Stein continues to find ways to raise her profile, I’m guessing you’ll see more coverage of her.)

    –Brian, NCPR

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  15. tootightmike says:

    We have allowed the two party system to tell us what our concerns are….and them the two candidates argue and debate and fund endless commercials and political ads…arguing those concerns. It doesn’t seem to matter that I thing our super-bloated military spending is the heart and soul of America’s problem. The candidates seem oblivious to the deteriorating climate, or the acceleration of that deterioration, nor do they seem to recognize the short sighted effectiveness of drill-baby-drill. Neither candidate has said a word about the plight of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel, or what it costs America to support the biggest bully in the Middle-east. They make noises about the importance of education for our future, but refuse to cut the military even enough to fund our schools.
    Instead, we talk about abortion, illegal immigrants, the deficit, and Obamacare…all of which would be off the radar if they’d let it go.

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  16. TomL says:

    Over 600 million has been spent in political advertising this year by the Presidential candidates’ campaigns alone. There is a mind-boggling amount of scratch being made by television, radio, and other media on political advertising. The better the horse-race, the better the earn.

    And yet news bureaus of the very same commercial television, radio, and other media are being cut back to the bone, and the ‘news’ they deliver is dominated by weather, sports, cute animal stories, and the occasional missing blonde young woman mystery. If it’s a political story, it’s framing some candidate’s off-hand comment as a gaffe.

    I have to wonder how many people get all of their information on candidates from the ads and the comedians.

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  17. JDM says:

    Brian Mann: “Those of us who are (still) offering straight-up news are, it seems, swimming against the tide of popular taste.”

    You report, we’ll decide if it’s straight up or not.

    “It’s telling that the biggest story of this political season — Mitt Romney’s “47% speech”
    #mediabiasalert

    The biggest story of the political season was Obama’s mishandling of Libya.

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  18. jeff says:

    Which comes first, the story or the candidate? Editors need to be following the issues more so than what the candidates say on the issues they want to address.

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  19. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    “Your indictments would be more significant if she did those things – at least on some primitive, marginal level — and journalists still ignored her. But there is no evidence that we would. Ralph Nader got heaps of attention. So did the Occupy movement.”

    I think you’re wrong here. The two major parties have worked hard to exclude third parties from having a voice. The reason the League of Women Voters doesn’t hold the major debates anymore is because the LWV allowed candidates from smaller parties a voice in the debates – and the American voter was better for it!

    Nader got attention and the corporation that runs the debates changed their rules to keep another Nader from happening. Remember John Anderson and Ross Perot. There is no way they would be allowed into the debates these days. And the MSM play along. Where are the great voices of journalism today to insist that the American public is being done a disservice?

    Is there some new standard for ideas that they have no merit unless a major party stands behind them? Did I miss some Supreme Court ruling that says not only is speech money and corporations are people but we are no longer taking ideas from sources outside of the 2 big parties seriously?

    And you’re going to bring up the Occupy Movement as if the MSM got behind the story? NPR didn’t even want to cover the story. Only after it became a story that most of the media were essentially ignoring a big story did Occupy become a big story.

    The Media have a responsibility to give voice to those who don’t wield power precisely because those who do wield power shut out other voices. Democracy shouldn’t be covered like a football game.

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  20. Larry says:

    The idea that somehow the American people are being conspired against by the media and the two major political parties is laughable. In this age of electronic access people can effortlessly sample as much news and information as they can process, including primary sources and the web site of any political party that has one. The fact is, most Americans do not care enough about alternative political parties to investigate them. Whether or not they should care is another discussion. Traditional media knows what people are interested in (sophisticated electronic data mining) and presents programming that reflects those interests.

    Even more laughable is the concept that there is any objective journalism out there at all. It’s a nice idea but probably has never actually existed. The danger is that most people don’t understand that. This blog is a perfect example: it claims to be objective but includes the comment: “the biggest story of this political season — Mitt Romney’s “47% speech””. JDM had it right about Libya being more important. Four people dead and confusion (at best) in the American government vs. a stupid comment surreptitiously recorded during a fund raiser. Really? Objectivity would have been to present both stories and let people decide for themselves.

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  21. Brian M: Even the ombudsman of the resolutely establishment Washington Post slaps down your premise.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/patrick-pexton-is-the-post-neglecting-third-parties/2012/10/19/cb7884cc-1a0d-11e2-94aa-9240e72ee00b_story.html

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  22. A small note: most of the coverage of Nader in 2000 was about the “spoiler” lie, not about his actual platform or ideas. I wouldn’t say your coverage of Hassig has been “significant” (three stories, if I remember correctly); just that three is more than most. Stein has been more aggressive than any smaller party candidate I can remember in using social media. I’m sure you haven’t noticed because your journalistic echo chamber hasn’t noticed. But it’s true. Gary Johnson has done a pretty good job as well.

    Hoffman’s a great example of the only kind of smaller party candidates the media does really cover: fake ones… members of a major party who don’t get their party’s nod and glom on to a smaller party line… not an actual independent or member of a smaller party. I think it’s great you gave him serious media coverage… and it proved it was possibly without the sky falling. I just ask you give others the same treatment. Your coverage of Hoffman proves that it IS possible.

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  23. Gee Larry: there are tons of conservative blogs out there and conservative commenters of forums like this. And according to your logic, something that appears on some random Internet site is no different, effect-wise, than a story on the CBS Evening News or in the NY Times. So hence, there is no overall bias in the media. See?

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  24. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry.

    “The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) began in 1987 by the Democratic and Republican parties to establish the way that presidential election debates are run between candidates for President of the United States. The Commission is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation as defined by federal US tax laws,[1] whose debates are sponsored by private contributions from foundations and corporations.[2]
    The CPD sponsors and produces debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and undertakes research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit corporation controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties, has run each of the presidential debates held since 1988. The Commission is headed by Frank Fahrenkopf, a former head of the Republican National Committee, and former White House press secretary Michael D. McCurry.[3] As of 2011,[4] the Board of directors consists of Howard Graham Buffett, John C. Danforth, John Griffen, Antonia Hernandez, Caroline Kennedy, Newton N. Minow, Richard D. Parsons, Dorothy Ridings, and Alan K. Simpson.”

    Read more here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_on_Presidential_Debates

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  25. Larry says:

    Brian (MOFYC),
    If you would stop being such a professional anarchist for a moment and re-read my post, you might understand my meaning. Let me know if you figure it out.

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  26. Larry says:

    KHL,
    Why direct your comments to me? I said nothing about the debates. You’re another one who needs some reading comprehension work.

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  27. Brian Mann says:

    Brian (MOFYC) –

    We’ve done at least five stories about Donald Hassig, including his appearances at debates, a profile, a story about his position on immigration, a report on his arrest, a news spot about his reaction to his relatively strong showing in the polls, and a full profile.

    For a guy who acknowledges that he has no hopes (or even plans, really) of winning, and who is currently threatening to sue his own party, I’d say that’s not bad.

    And I reject entirely your argument that we should be held accountable for not covering third party candidates, and then scolded again for covering the wrong (or the wrong kind of) third party candidates.

    You say the Conservative Party doesn’t count, apparently? Because you don’t like their politics? Because you’ve decided that they are illegitimate? How does that scan?

    In fact, the Conservative Party has had a profound impact on New York politics in recent years — aggressively attacking moderate Republicans, pushing the GOP to the right, and in some cases driving them from office.

    The fact that you have adopted an opinion that these politicians and their party are somehow “fake” is an example of how this kind of media criticism becomes so skewed.

    So let me summarize my position and my dissatisfaction with your argument.

    We report — not always perfectly — on Occupy, the Tea Party, the Conservative Party, the Green Party.

    We report on “fringe” movements of every conceivable kind, from gay rights to property rights to the localvore movement, often long before anyone else realizes that these are significant developments in the culture.

    We aggressively seek out people whose voices aren’t being heard, from the poor to the homeless to the mentally ill. We do so with limited resources, using our best professional judgment.

    In the case of NCPR, we also do so using dollars and revenue drawn overwhelmingly from non-corporate, non-governmental sources — primarily small foundations, local businesses, and individual donors — in an effort to maintain our editorial independence.

    And yet because you have a cause or politician or “ism” or party that you want us to champion, and we decline to play along, you default to the notion that we’re part of “the machine” or that we have a “blind spot.”

    I say again: Bosh.

    Again, if Jill Stein is tough and smart enough to have a real impact on American politics — and if the Greens are thoughtful, organized and persistent enough to help her do it — the media will take notice.

    Honestly? It’s the kind of story we most love to tell.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  28. scratchy says:

    Excellent article by Warren. He’s right on the media ignoring third parties and is right about the harnfu =l effects if constant hire race coverage.

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  29. oa says:

    Brian,
    I agree with you that what Jill Stein did was great political theater. Especially how she arranged being handcuffed for eight hours in a prefab holding cell. That part was awesome. I wish she would have somehow arranged to have been waterboarded, too. And tased. Like all losers deserve to arrange for themselves.

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  30. Brian Mann says:

    OA –

    Yes, that was my point. As you can tell from what I wrote, I’m completely down with the idea of waterboarding third party candidates.

    Because those are our options, right?

    We either live in a world where journalists include everyone without any kind of filter or deliberation or editorial judgment — or we live in a police state.

    There’s obviously no in-between where a third party can be expected to, you know, organize and build support and establish its relevance and maybe win some public offices around the country and develop credibility.

    Fringe candidates should just ring the press at their convenience and say, “Hey, I’m with the XXX Party and I’d like to be at the presidential debate next week — what should I wear?”

    “And by the way,” the phone call continues, “I think you should spend your time and energy covering my issues and opinions, even though I haven’t bothered to, you know, build support or raise money or develop any kind of profile as an authority on many of the issues I’m talking about.”

    Because, again, the only logical alternative to having reporters do the messaging and leg work for political parties is waterboarding…

    –Brian, NCPR

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  31. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    KHL: “I think you’re wrong here. The two major parties have worked hard to exclude third parties from having a voice.”

    Larry: “The idea that somehow the American people are being conspired against by the media and the two major political parties is laughable.”

    Your statement coming directly after mine I have to assume you are somehow addressing my comment. And even if you aren’t I am showing that your statement misses the mark.

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  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Brian Mann;

    I think you’re being overly touchy re: Jill Stein. Whether or not she is a serious and viable contender for the Presidency, the fact that she was arrested and kept cuffed to a chair for hours is a serious and important story.
    If an American citizen was treated that way in Canada or Mexico or Libya it would be a major news story.

    For the record, I used to be a Green Party member and I like many of their stated positions, but I left because there are too many people like Donald Hassig who I just can’t take seriously. It is really too bad because the Green Party is usually best on most issues and Jill Stein is a serious and credible candidate. I hope they get their act together.

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  33. Brian Mann says:

    KHL –

    I was trying to exhibit a sense of humor, not always my strong suit. I think you’re probably right. The fact that she was arrested is worth a small story. If she was allegedly mistreated, more so.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  34. Larry says:

    Well you’re wrong on both accounts. If I was addressing you I would’ve indicated it at the beginning of my comments. If you read and understood what I wrote you would have known that I was speaking about the media not about the two major political parties.

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  35. Marlo says:

    “The idea that somehow the American people are being conspired against by the media and the two major political parties is laughable. In this age of electronic access people can effortlessly sample as much news and information as they can process, including primary sources and the web site of any political party that has one. The fact is, most Americans do not care enough about alternative political parties to investigate them.”

    Yes, exactly. The information is out there, whether or not Brian Mann reports it. (Since he generally covers local Adirondack news, it’s not really his job anyway.)

    If there was any real demand for or interest in coverage of third parties, reporters would cover them, because more people would be asking them to. They’re not. If a lot of people liked their ideas, they would vote for them. They’re not. If third-party candidates for president were doing the kind of legwork and campaigning to make themselves noticeable and relevant, reporters would be writing about them more. When they do these things (Don Hassig, Doug Hoffman, Eric Sundwall, David Kimmel, Karen Bisso), they get coverage. It’s not the media’s job to do the work the candidates aren’t.

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  36. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry: “The idea that somehow the American people are being conspired against by the media and the two major political parties is laughable.”

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  37. Larry says:

    Clearly, I’m the source of the confusion and for that I apologize. I should not have included that reference in comments I meant to be about the media and journalists.

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  38. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Brian M, sense of humor? Oh!

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  39. hermit thrush says:

    i have to say, i think jdm and larry have a point — not that libya is the biggest story of the campaign so far, but that it’s far from clear that romney’s 47% comment is. i really think it’s only fair for brian to address this.

    on the topic of libya, however, everyone should go read this kevin drum post, which is full of the latest reporting on the story and contains lots of links. the takeaway:

    Bottom line: There were conflicting reports on the ground, and that was reflected in conflicting and sometimes confused reports from the White House. I don’t think anyone would pretend that the Obama’s administration’s response to Benghazi was anywhere near ideal. Nevertheless, the fact is that their statements were usually properly cautious; the YouTube video really did play a role; the attack was opportunistic, not preplanned; and it doesn’t appear to have had any serious connection with al-Qaeda.

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  40. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    HT is correct that the election isn’t about the silly gotcha moments that somehow (and by somehow I mean because “the media” seems to be endlessly fascinated by obscure minutia) become major talking points.

    The election is about how we see ourselves as a people and how we plan to govern and interact with the rest of the world in the next 4 years and for a long time into the future.

    Will the American public remember how the collapse of our economy happened? Will we remember that the Republican congress worked assiduously to prevent the duly elected President from passing legislation? Will we reward the Party of No for their obstructionism?

    Will we put a Republican in power who will likely have the chance to restructure the Supreme Court for a generation? Do we want to see the type of right wing judicial activism we have seen be strengthened?

    Do we want to place in power the Party that not long ago was talking about privatizing Social Security and Medicare so that corporate executives can get rich off of our social safety net? Do we want to see more of the kind of laissez faire capitalism that drove our countries policies under the Bush administration? Do we want to see our military continue down the path of privatization that creates financial rewards to corporations when we as a Nation get involved in military conflict? Do we want a two tier military where enlisted men making a few tens of thousands of dollars a year fight side by side with military contractors (mercenaries) who make hundreds of thousands of dollars?

    Do we want to see the types of foreign policies that drove us to war in Iraq? Will we beat the drums of endless war? Next war Iran, or Syria, or Somalia? Will we put people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Richard Pearle, and John Bolton back in charge of our foreign affairs? Cheney? Remember Cheney? The man who profited personally from war through his shares of Halliburton while our soldiers were being killed?

    Will we go down that road again?

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  41. JDM says:

    It’s somewhat poetic justice when the media chides the Tea Party, and touts the Green Party only to have their man blow up in their face.

    However, had this been a Tea Party candidate, the whole Tea Party would be run threw the media wringer.

    I don’t hear any cries of how misled the Green Party is.

    I’ll try to remember to remind everyone of this, the next time a Tea Party incident happens where one person is to blame, and the whole Tea Party movement is to suffer.

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  42. Larry says:

    “The election is about how we see ourselves as a people and how we plan to govern and interact with the rest of the world in the next 4 years and for a long time into the future.”

    That sums it up rather neatly. The follow-up question, however, is can we afford to invest another four years in an administration that has epically failed to deliver positive results so far? No excuses, now, Obama knew what he was getting into and that did not stop him from making promises he hasn’t kept. Instead, we have more unemployed, $5 a gallon gasoline, a stagnant economy, a health care plan that at least 50% of the American people are against and that 100% don’t understand, international enemies who are running wild and a President who whips up support for his failed policies by blaming the opposition and who promises economic relief through class warfare.

    I don’t think we can.

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  43. Will Doolittle says:

    Here’s a short version of the argument: The mainstream media outlets are irrelevant. I wish they would pay attention to third-party candidates so that voters would find out about them.

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  44. JDM: This is the same, not different. Hassig was virtually ignored until he became (or revealed himself to be) a complete train wreck.

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  45. After a few articles on Hassig’s crazy comments, I’ve figured it out!

    In this thread, Brian M said that he would not cover all candidates but would cover anyone that he found interesting. I think we’ve found out what his definition of interesting is.

    In the last few years, here are third party candidates that have run in major races covered a lot by him and NCPR.

    2009 Congressional special election: Eric Sundwall (Libertarian)
    2009 Congressional special election: Doug Hoffman (Conservative)
    2010 Governor’s race: Warren Redlich (Libertarian) and Howie Hawkins (Green)
    2012 Presidential race: Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green)
    2012 Congressional election: Donald Hassig (Green)

    Of these candidates, Sundwall, Redlich, Hawkins, Johnson and Stein are/were all intelligent, thoughtful candidates. I didn’t agree with everything they all said or stood for; some of them, I disagreed with very strongly on things. But they were all substantive. They all brought something different to the table worth debating further. They were all ignored.

    By contrast, Hoffman was an empty suit but an ideological loudmouth great at intoning conservative talking points while Hassig is a incoherent train wreck. Both have gotten far more coverage than the far more substantive candidates.

    We now know how Brian M defines “interesting” in electoral campaigns… and it’s disappointingly similar to how the NY Post does so.

    (Yes, a little bit of hyperbole but not as much as I wish it were)

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  46. Brian Mann says:

    So, Brian, two points:

    First, we gave Donald Hassig a lot of coverage before he got cross-wise with his party — at least four stories and several additional blog posts for the Green Party candidate, several of them largely positive.

    So your argument that we ignored Hassig until his recent troubles began? It’s just factually, demonstrably false. No gray zones, no ambiguity — just false. We gave considerable expression to his ideas about the environment and social justice.

    Second, it’s just goofy that you’re criticizing other journalists for exercising professional journalistic judgment about when and how to cover particular candidates (NCPR did at least four stories about Eric Sundwall, as well as blog posts, by the way) when you feel comfortable dismissing some third party candidates as “empty suits” or “train wrecks.”

    The fact is that we have different editorial standards. We’ve thought long and hard about ours and we constantly re-examine our approach.

    Bluntly, your approach sounds like name-calling (against the candidates, not against me) and political favoritism that hasn’t been thought through very thoroughly.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  47. hermit thrush says:

    i know a lot of people feel like larry do, but what he’s saying just doesn’t withstand contact with reality.

    No excuses, now, Obama knew what he was getting into and that did not stop him from making promises he hasn’t kept.

    seriously wrong. the economic information that the incoming obama administration had — the information on which they based their projections and formulated their policies — was revised significantly downward well after the fact. in other words, the economy was much worse than the numbers indicated at the time. that’s a big part of how you get too-rosy predictions and an inadequate response.

    Instead, we have more unemployed

    huh? the unemployment rate is now the same as when obama took office — and he took office with the economy in free fall.

    a stagnant economy

    huh? the unemployment rate is steadily going down. economic indicators are looking up. consumer confidence is at a five-year high.

    i’m sure we both agree that things should be getting better faster than they are, but we have a slowly, steadily improving economy, not a stagnant one.

    international enemies who are running wild

    right, like how al qaeda’s leadership has been decimated and iran is being browbeaten by withering sanctions. obviously — obviously! — obama’s record isn’t perfect, but his foreign policy has been a massive improvement over his predecessor’s.

    support for his failed policies by blaming the opposition

    i’m not even sure what this is supposed to mean, but one of obama’s big problems is that he hasn’t been able to fully enact his policies because of his opponents’ obstruction. the economy would be in much better shape now if he’d been able to pass his jobs bill last year.

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  48. Paul says:

    Funny, a blog on political journalism turns into a sounding board for the Obama (KLH) and Romney (Larry) talking points.

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  49. John Warren says:

    You can read my rebuttal to Brian Mann here: http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2012/10/commentary-journalism-and-electoral-politics-round-two.html

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  50. Paul says:

    John, Are you just trying to beef up hits for the Almanack or are you serious about this?

    Didn’t NCPR via NPR run an AP story on the Stein’s arrest? I am pretty sure I read about it here? What were you looking for a more in-depth analysis of some kind?

    You can’t give every flash-in-the-pants candidate coverage. We would all start our own third party just to get our picture in the paper.

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