Two Areas Where Media is Dropping the Ball

We Need Better Than This

About That Whole “Fourth Branch of Government” Thing

From its earliest days, America – well, some Americans, anyway – have recognized the importance of a free and responsible press to democracy. We all know the famous lines from Jefferson, wherein he stated that if he had to choose between a society with no press or one with no government, he would choose the latter. The press, media today, is that important to an informed citizenry.

Today, let’s talk a bit about the mainstream press, not social media. Social media is a whole separate set of challenges and opportunities we can address at another time. It is important for sure. But for today, my focus is mainly on tv news and journalism. There are at least two ongoing themes of coverage that I think are misleading and harmful to the nation.

Coverage of the Administration and the State of the Nation

When there is a presidential election underway, media often focuses more on the “horserace” than the substance of campaigns. It’s an easier, more colorful story to tell. We see the same sort of mentality in much of the coverage of the Biden administration just now. Much of it is simply wrong.

We keep hearing that Biden is having trouble governing. Yet two of the three major legislative goals he set out are now law, and the hunt is on for the third one. Much more needs to be done – voter protection in particular screams for action. But overall, looking at the economy, the pandemic fight, legislation, and executive branch/judicial appointments, Biden is doing great. Republicans are trying to sabotage everything and are offering few solutions on anything, but in spite of that, things are getting done.

The supply chain backlog is easing across the country, inflation is unavoidable given the dynamics, but the strategic reserve release and the elements of Build Back Better (if passed) make a real difference.

The media has made a great fuss over internal Democratic strife over legislation. Guess what? That’s how it always goes in passing legislation. It is truly sausage making on a large scale. All this back and forth is part of the process. Get over it.

On so many objective areas, the administration is doing just fine. In some key economic indicators, they are breaking decades old records. A little less drama please, in the coverage. A little more adult coverage would be welcome.

COVID 19 and the Omicron Variant

The new variant is indeed scary. It certainly is more transmissible. But at this point, that is all we know. In fact, some of the initial evidence indicates that while it spreads like wildfire, it may well not be especially virulent, and there are also early indications that the existing vaccines are reasonably effective against it.

As Dr Fauci has said, despite what we may hear from much of the media, there is no reason to go berserk. As the President said, it is appropriate to be concerned. It is not reasonable to panic. But you would not know that from media coverage. It is saturated with gloom and doom prognostications. The reality is that we won’t know for few weeks yet what this thing amounts to, but we are far better equipped to deal with it now than we would have been a year ago.

Settle down, take a deep breath, keep doing the smart preventive things, and let’s see where the evidence takes us. Breathlessly fearing the worst in broadcasts doesn’t help anyone or accomplish anything useful. Unless you count panicking the stock market lemmings a good thing. Keep that up, folks. We are getting some good buys on the market thanks to the blind panic.

While we are at it, let’s move forward on that global treaty being discussed for a world-wide approach to future pandemics. A splendid idea, and the only way to combat these things.

Step Up, Media

The country does indeed face some remarkable challenges just now. The pandemic has reshaped much of our economy and society in ways we are still trying to discern. There is a serious, dangerous threat of internal subversion and destruction of democracy, not just in Washington. International security threats are quite real, and likely to strike sooner rather than later.

All that, and more, calls for the press writ large to step up to their historic role and help keep citizens informed. We don’t need excessive drama, false issues, or The End is Near every two days. My friends in the media: We need you. Do your job, dammit.

        Bill Clontz

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8 replies to Two Areas Where Media is Dropping the Ball

  1. Bill, this is a great piece and “the sky is falling” approach in the media (and in solicitation emails, I might add) is one reason I don’t read them anymore. I suggest you send this piece as an op- ed to the USA Today and other media outlets. It is thoughtful, reasonable, well-written and hopeful. I enjoy reading your blogs every week. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Nancy. Always nice to know when great minds think alike!

  2. My favorite quote: “ A little less drama please, in the coverage. A little more adult coverage would be welcome.”

  3. Right on. Great points. Whom in the media should we send it to.
    Sally Atkins

    • Glad you liked it. Always helpful to call out shortfalls where we see them, when we see them. Letters to the editor, etc. are old fashioned solutions that do have impact, in most media.

  4. As almost always, your observations are so logical. Once again, I find myself seeking the right outlet for greater exposure.


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