“Just Don’t Trust Anyone Who Tells You How You Should Think”

…was Andrea Seabrook’s closing quote in Adrienne LaFrance’s piece on Nieman Lab, one of the sites I promised to monitor religiously.

Quick recap. Seabrook left NPR to create her own podcast, Decode DC. She’s not really making money at the moment. There are two $5,000 ad spots. However, she is about to work with HBO on a documentary about Congress – so that has potential dollar signs and award season accolades written all over it.

Seabrook wants to change the he-said, she-said model of political coverage – “of going beyond the spin” as Margaret Sullivan said in this recent NYTimes article. – the same issue Jay Rosen discussed on PressThink.

Seabrook: […] We political reporters — and Washington reporters — spend way too much time covering what these people say. What they say is so overrefined and spun and full of half-truths that I feel like covering what they say — or overcovering what they say — does a real disservice to your audience. It’s important for people to know what their government’s doing. There is real worth in that. By doing it with very little analysis, by just repeating what they say, we buy into the deceit. Especially if we vastly undercover what they intentionally don’t talk about. And that’s where it gets really hard. Newsrooms are so squeezed that it’s almost impossible to cover something that isn’t said. It takes more time. It’s harder. It’s so much easier to cover the he-said she-said bullshit.

A few facts spewed by Seabrook:

  • The country is 50% women; Congress is 17% women
  • The country is less than ¾ white; Congress is well over 80% white
  • 1% of the country are millionaires or over; 44% of Congress are millionaires
  • “So the Congress overwhelmingly skews white, male, old, and rich.”

Is it new for media personnel to critique congress for not being properly representative of the country (link to another)? No. Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, and Jon Stewart (to name but a few) do that as well.

Is it a new concept to want reporters to dig deeper? No.

Is Seabrook’s new podcast noteworthy? Yes, because she’s transitioning from an established legacy position to a newer model of media (the podcast) so as to voice more facts. This is the same shift we saw in Monday’s class with online pop-ups like the CT Mirror. Disgruntled and accomplished news members are using newer platforms to voice what was previously muffled.

Rather than, ‘feeding reaction without verification of substance” –  look to reporters initial response to Romney’s 47% video or local New York coverage on Vito Lopez, which immediately saw reporters getting quotes from fellow NYC democrats before facts were in – it seems Seabrook is hesitant to highlight the day’s meme.

She specifically says she is wary of the gaffe supplanting the story and becoming news – which seems to be the growing trend in nightly news stories and papers alike that retell the same meme of the day.

Seabrook: […] There are times when what one person says is true is true. And it’s okay to call someone out. It’s okay to say, “John Boehner says the budget would work this way, but it doesn’t appear to be that way within the language.

Perhaps these new platforms, worked by old-school journalists, will avoid the meme and stay to true to fact? 

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Benjamin A Simon Election 2012 Blog

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