New Roles for Established Media

moderator: Stephen Van Evera, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Amy Mitchell, Project for Excellence in Journalism
author: Alex Jones, Harvard Kennedy School
author: Mark Jurkowitz, The Boston Globe
published: March 8, 2013,   recorded: October 2004,   views: 2289
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Description

These panelists purvey grim news about the media’s 2004 election coverage.

Amy Mitchell offers results of a study showing that the vast majority of reporting in the 2004 election concerned “inside politics” such as candidates’ performance and tactics; a measly 4% of debate coverage explained policy. As network news withdraws from conventions, expect to see cable TV’s “live, extemporaneous” and often slip-shod approach to politics assume greater dominance.

From Alex Jones, we learn that voters in the most recent election had so committed themselves to a candidate that no reporting on issues could move them, even if the facts stood squarely against their stated reasons for supporting the candidate. Says Jones, “for many people, voting is an emotional issue and what they gather from the media are impressions and not facts. So what are they seeing and reading?” Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation and opinion from the “blogosphere,” Jones believes. Cable TV is so driven by its need to fill 24 hours of airtime that it jumps on every sensational internet posting. It’s a “cutthroat, competitive environment of fragmented audiences, so invest what you have with as much snap, crackle and pop and spend as little as possible on reporting.”

Mark Jurkowitz says journalism is “dominated by ‘he said, she said coverage’” and is “no longer about getting the truth or testing claims.” He fears a trend where the public loses confidence in press objectivity and “no longer puts up with a messenger it doesn’t agree with on potent issues.” Jurkowitz predicts a partisan divide of news outlets as stark as the schism between red and blue states.

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