On Monday, we (again) talked about the real danger of politicians going beyond potshots against journalists and promoting the concept of media censorship. Today, we must revisit this matter. And this time, I’m turning the magnifying glass on my end of this equation as we examine why media coverage of the nascent 2020 campaign already feels so tired, so nasty, and so rude.
Let’s remember what truly matters.
Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) made what should have been big news, news that affects us right here in Nevada. She released a public lands plan that includes restoring full protection for the National Monuments that the Trump administration is trying to roll back, reinstating Obama administration rules on methane emissions from oil and gas extraction, issuing a moratorium on any and all new fossil fuel extraction on federal public lands, actually funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund that Congress recently reauthorized (but didn’t refill), and including Native American tribes and other local communities in the decision making process.
Considering how big of an issue environmental justice is here in Nevada, and really throughout the nation, Warren’s public lands plan is a pretty big deal. And yet, beyond some local news sites and outlets that focus on environmental issues, her proposals have received little attention.
Hell, for that matter, Warren’s affordable housing plan, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minnesota) “trillion dollar infrastructure plan”, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ (D-California) teacher pay raise proposal, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s (D-New Jersey) many ideas on criminal justice reform have received little attention. Instead we’re being inundated with all kinds of “news” over candidate speculation, a humanitarian crisis being treated as “election strategy”, comparisons of candidates to “beef stew”, and death threats against elected officials being treated as “complicated to defend”. And we wonder why this very early stage of the 2020 election cycle already feels like the height of silly season.
How about we stop obsessing over stuff that doesn’t really matter!
The one part of this I have to agree with is rehashing the stolen emails. The big media outlets did more promotion for the Russian hacking than anyone. Hard to imagine NYT would quote docs obtained by Russian mobsters breaking and entering into Neera's home. https://t.co/JoD8x5qKU7
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) April 16, 2019
On Monday, I addressed the matter of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) picking a fight with ThinkProgress in the hope that we all focus on the real issue at the heart of this dispute: the need to defend free speech and free press, regardless of where these press outlets and the politicians targeting them fall along the ideological spectrum. No, Sanders’ appearance on Fox News doesn’t make this issue “go away”. And yes, once more with feeling, this is about a far more serious matter than “Bernie Sanders versus ‘establishment Democrats’” D.C. cocktail party chatter.
And yet, far too many other news outlets have reduced this story to mindless chatter. This chatter fell to a new nadir when The New York Times ran a story that essentially weaponizes emails that were stolen as part of a Russian propaganda campaign and an interview that was conducted under false premise to turn ridiculous gossip into some newsworthy “messy fight between Sanders and Clinton supporters”.
No, New York Times. Sweet-talking someone’s mother into spilling the tea on her daughter is the kind of cheap, tabloid-style fodder that I expect from the New York Post or TMZ. It’s certainly not part of “all the news that’s fit to print”, and it’s not the kind of news that helps readers make informed decisions on who they plan to vote for.
Who matters? You do. What matters? The real issues that affect you.
You know what kind of news can help readers make informed decisions? Policy papers! Real investigations (into real issues, not personal “beef”)! Idea discussions! Voting records!
When I go out “into the field” and speak with real voters, they ask these kinds of questions and seek out real answers. How can we in the media say we’re doing our best to serve these voters when we bury real, substantive news under a mountain of idle speculation, baseless gossip, and pure bullshit?
The smearing of CAP and @neeratanden is really something to behold, because it suggests that some people in both the media and political life have learned nothing. For the first time in a couple of years I'm starting to feel that Trump might get reelected.
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) April 16, 2019
Yes, we can and should call out politicians who attack the media and try to pit the voting public against us. At the same time, we can and should do more to prove to the voting public that we deserve their trust and respect. Hot garbage like The New York Times’ Center for American Progress hit piece doesn’t help. It doesn’t help us, and it certainly doesn’t help you.
Regardless of how we personally feel about Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and the multitude of other candidates running this cycle, we owe it to the voting public to do better and report on real, newsworthy stories. We should never feel obligated to do the candidates’ bidding, but we should always feel obligated to serve you.