Elizabeth Edwards on the pathetic coverage of the elections

News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve.

And the future of news is not bright. Indeed, we’ve heard that CBS may cut its news division, and media consolidation is leading to one-size-fits-all journalism. The state of political campaigning is no better: without a press to push them, candidates whose proposals are not workable avoid the tough questions. All of this leaves voters uncertain about what approach makes the most sense for them. Worse still, it gives us permission to ignore issues and concentrate on things that don’t matter. (Look, the press doesn’t even think there is a difference!)

Bowling 1, Health Care 0 – New York Times

  • Krishna

    The issue of “the media is soooo pathetic” rears its ugly head every few years. Everyone bitches and moans and suggests no alternatives!

    If you thought a car was ugly, would you buy it? Then why do you watch a stupid reality show that you think is bad? Or watch the 9 PM news if you think it’s rubbish? Don’t tell me you can’t find something better, more entertaining, or more informative!

    These are corporations- they respond to your watching & your dollars (thanks to ratings, these are the same things). If people watch crap, corporations will give you crap. People get what they pay for!

    If you believe, like me, that the news is a “special” category, and that The Economist Magazine will never be mainstream because “people” are just too stupid, then you need something like the BBC (non-commercial)… wait you have PBS, and NPR! And not enough people watch/listen to it!

    Want better news? Stop blaming the companies and start looking to your own behaviour! Turn off that TV, buy/rent a DVD, read your news on the web, get a subscription to The Economist Magazine and don’t pick up that newsstand edition of whatever celeb mag you buy.

  • Shripriya

    That is true – the market gets what it asks for. However, the issue is that do news organizations have a duty to try to elevate the level or not? One could argue that as a public service, they should try to educate and illuminate rather than just entertain and cater to lowest common denominator.

  • Krishna

    @Shripriya,
    I agree on the public service commitment of corporations (especially since they were given their air bandwidth FREE!!- one of the biggest Govt. handouts in History!) but my point is that there are good news alternatives (BBC on cable, NPR on free air)but too few take advantage of them

    There is of course, the chicken-egg problem: “Has bad news dumbed the population down so much that they prefer bad news?” I could go on, but I’ll stop for fear of being labeled an elitist

  • Prithvi

    The news and media space resembles a commons rather than a market – an unregulated public resource – where as Garrett Hardin pointed out in his essay the Tragedy of the Commons – the pursuit of individual self-interest just leads to a loss for the community as a whole.

    The costs of acquiring all the “correct” information to cast a single vote that won’t affect the overall outcome of a political process is irrational on so many levels. There’s a cool book on this subject by Bryan Caplan called The Myth of the Rational Voter.

    The alternative is clear – people should earn their votes – become supervoters – at the polling booth they should be given a basic test to test for economic competency and political awareness or perhaps this year we can just enfranchise the Economist subscribers 🙂

  • Shripriya

    @Prithvi – yo! welcome back! I like the Economist subscribers idea. I see you have no fear of being labeled an elitist 😉

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