Monday, April 28, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards On The State Of Journalism

It's been covered already by Scan at, and now by Crooks And Liars, but this is a terrific essay by someone who, as she put it, had a front-row seat in this Presidential campaign:

Watching the campaign unfold, I saw how the press gravitated toward a narrative template for the campaign, searching out characters as if for a novel: on one side, a self-described 9/11 hero with a colorful personal life, a former senator who had played a president in the movies, a genuine war hero with a stunning wife and an intriguing temperament, and a handsome governor with a beautiful family and a high school sweetheart as his bride. And on the other side, a senator who had been first lady, a young African-American senator with an Ivy League diploma, a Hispanic governor with a self-deprecating sense of humor and even a former senator from the South standing loyally beside his ill wife. Issues that could make a difference in the lives of Americans didn’t fit into the narrative template and, therefore, took a back seat to these superficialities.

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.

Bowling 1, Health Care 0

It's a sad but true fact that journalism in this country, particularly the broadcast form, has reached a low point. If you want to know what's going on in most of the world, you read the foreign press. If you want to know what's going on in this country, you're left with few worthy choices.

In the end, we're only as strong as the debates we can have on the issues before us. With the steady consolidation of the news business into a few entities owned by a very few people, we are in serious danger of being so out of touch with reality that we won't even recognize it when it finally shows up on our doorstep.


pissed off patricia said...

The pundits want to tell us what to think and how to think about it. Sadly some Americans are okay with that and allow their thinking to be done for them. Remember what they use to say, if you don't use it, you lose it. That's exactly what is happening to the American mind.

Cujo359 said...

No kidding. There was a time when political debates were a form of entertainment. Now, most people find them boring. In some ways, given how they've been lately, I can't blame people, but I still think we've just gotten to the point where most folks will let someone else decide for them. In fact, the first couple of paragraphs of this essay had just those people in mind.

Anonymous said...

I miss John and Elizabeth Edwards. I really do. To me they're the star couple that has it all -- brains, passion, drive, looks, talent, and the gift of making you feel that, when they talk, they are talking directly to you, and nobody else is in the room.

And then when the pundits had no more use for them, they went away to the country to live their best lives. They're kind of like the Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward of politics. We are better for having known them, and the last three months of this exhausting boxing match between Hillary and Barack proves how much the Edwards' absence from the campaign has cost us.


Cujo359 said...

Hi shoephone,

Yes, I miss them, too. For mostly the same reasons. They are people who actually have tried to make the world a better place any way they could. TV ignored them, so most of America did, too.

What was especially galling this time was to listen to some of the "reasoning" people used to ignore them even in the blogosphere - he's white, he's a lawyer, he's a "he". How can you argue with people that stupid? I never could, that's for sure.