Why News Reporting Matters

July 11, 2014 9:12 am

by Jon Richards · 3 comments

Yesterday, I retweeted this item from the AJC’s Daniel Malloy:

Take a minute to read the Washington Post article Malloy references. Especially this:

There is a paradox in the reality of American politics: The more local an office, the more of an impact it has on any given person’s daily life. Yet the more local an election, the lower the voter interest. Presidential elections drive turnout. State legislators, who decide funding levels for local transportation projects or school districts and who have more influence on the average person’s life than the president of the United States, do not. Now, there is less coverage of those legislators than ever before.

That, in turn, has given politicians, lobbyists and public relations professionals the opportunity to step into the vacuum. Whether via newsletters, YouTube, Facebook or other social media outlets, politicians are increasingly generating their own news, and interest groups are spinning their own stories.

“That led to a growth, in my mind, of more lobbyists and more public relations people controlling the news through social media,” [retired Associated Press reporter Norma] Love said. “It’s just been a sad decline in coverage in terms of being the watchdog of government.”

According to a Pew Research Center study referenced in the article, Georgia has 17 full time reporters covering the state capitol. Texas has the most, with 53 in Austin. That study shows newspapers have the most reporters, followed by TV stations and the wire services.

The WaPo story is a powerful reminder of the importance of a robust free press. Thanks and happy Friday to everyone in the media who plays a part in keeping Georgia residents and voters informed about what their government is doing.

Dr. Monica Henson July 11, 2014 at 9:16 am

Yay for the Fourth Estate!

Charlie July 11, 2014 at 9:26 am

Glad to say we’re a small part of bringing out Georgia’s political news, but want to recognize the fact that we couldn’t do what we do without the folks that do this full time as a profession.

We rely heavily on the folks that are the Capitol press corps. They’re good people. Those that I work with regularly are professionals who have a job to do. While I know the political leanings of some, I can say that the ones I’m most familiar with don’t want to or try to bring agendas into their story. Those that lean ‘a bit’ left often talk to me on background asking “Why is this important to Republicans?” or “Why would they do this this way?” because they truly want to understand a perspective they’re not getting that would be more apparent to those of us that lean “a bit” right. It’s important to them because they want to deliver news, and not just a one sided story.

In short, glad to spend time among these folks, and they need more thanks than they usually get for the job they do, rather then the usual pejoratives thrown at “the mainstream media”.

greencracker July 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Seventeen full-time reporters at Cap? Geez, now I’m going to have to go look at their methodology because I can’t come up with more than a dozen, and that counts edge cases such as myself who are either seasonal or cover other beats in addition to state government.

IMHO politics reporting is actually _not a good job_ for the very right- or left-leaning. It’s a good job for people who enjoy the game and/or debate, but not those who are intellectually wedded to one outcome or the other. It would make you too mad when your side loses. If you like to argue & analyze, get a job writing editorials.

I mean, everybody, every human, has biases. I’m here to attest that among reporters, not all leanings are even leftward. But good reporters try to identify and overcome bias. Trying to avoid bias might be part of why cap reporting is so boring to read. Say, for example:

House proposes two percent rise for FY 19 spending
vs
House drafts FY 19 spend-o-rama
vs
Inflation to outpace tightfisted House FY 19 budget plan

IMHO, one big place where bias comes in is in story assignments. If the editor has one reporter and can send her to cover either budget hearings* or firefighters rescuing a cat from a tree** … well … the thing is, a lot more people are going to connect with the cat story. And as a business, is it not the newspaper’s responsibility to shareholders to maximize ROI? Maximize clicks, readership and revenue? So, cat story it is!

* Or work for months on some investigation that might yield only one or two stories but huge changes in state policy
** Or a really creepy murder

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