Monday, November 14, 2016

The biggest loser of this presidential election: journalism

I’ve been saying for a long time that the decline of journalism would have a major impact on civic life in America. It was not an original though... Chris Hedges even wrote a book about it. 


This decline did not start in 2016 nor did its effects.


My dad pointed out the start of this trend about 20 years ago. It was reinforced to me when I lived abroad and listened on shortwave to foreign radio stations and noticed how differently they covered issues.


The decline is essentially the increasing emphasis on polls and “analysis” and opinion at the expense of in-depth factual reporting. Journalism has become less about revealing what’s going on beneath the surface and mostly dominated by parroting of superficial conventional wisdom. It’s shallow b.s. and the media that pats itself on the bdack as watchdog is suffocated by it.


For the last several years, Nate Silver has been canonized by adherents of the analysis school of “journalism.” I think only a week before the election, I checked his site. It said that Hillary Clinton had at least a 95% chance of winning (might have been 99%). It said that she had 268 electoral votes in the bag and Trump 210. And that basically Trump had to win every single swing state, bar none, to win the election. Clinton will end up far short of even that 268 that Mr. Infallible predicted. He epitomizes the failure of modern journalism. He’s a statistician yet the media treated what he did as journalism.


Trump/Pence’s fascist bigoted agenda was only endorsed by one of every four Americans. Trump is our president but the overwhelming majority did not endorse his agenda. Only one of our four


Nearly half of all Americans did not vote. This shows how sick our democracy is far more so than the identity of the winning ticket. The media only reports on two choices. And despite overwhelming disgust with those two, they almost completely ignore the two (national ones) that offer something meaningfully different. “Conventional wisdom” was that you were wasting your vote if you voted for a smaller party candidate. Even on those rare occasions a smaller party candidate gets media attention, there is NEVER an occasion where s/he isn’t asked about being a “spoiler” or chances of winning or other horse race garbage. S/he is lucky if meaningful policy discussion is even half of the interview.


So when you are told that your choices are to waste your vote on a good candidate or support someone you find morally repugnant, it is any surprise nearly half of Americans said “the heck with all this”? When they find out that the person who gets the most votes doesn’t win – unlike EVERY OTHER OFFICE IN AMERICA – it makes the process seem even more pointless. When “experts” and the professional pundit class tell them must vote for the “lesser of two evils” and to vote for A because B sucks even more, does that really inspire them with a deep sense of patriotic and civic pride?


If you want those half of Americans to actually vote, don’t lecture them. Don’t condescend to them. Give them a positive reason to do so.


 

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