• Focus, media. Focus.

    Yesterday I tweeted about a phenomenal article written by James Fallows 15 years ago. Today, he actually posted about it. I’m sure the two occurances are unrelated.

    This piece from the update to his post struck me:

    If someone were starting on a mid-2011 update, an item from today’s news could be a case study. Al Gore’s new essay in Rolling Stone, about impending climate disasters, is mainly about the failure of the media to direct adequate attention to the issue, and to call out paid propagandists and discredited phony scientists. That’s where the essay starts, and what it covers in its first 5,000 words. The second part, less than half as long, and much more hedged in its judgment, is about the Obama Administration’s faltering approach on climate change. But of course the immediate press presentation on the essays has been all “OMG Gore attacks Obama!” For instance at Slate,* TPMNY Mag, the AP, and the Atlantic’s own Wire site

    Yes, the news value here is Gore-v-Obama; yes, that’s part of the story. But the theme I tried to lay out in that essay is that the media’s all-consuming interest in the “how” and “who’s ahead” of politics, and “oh God this is boring” disdain for the “what” and “why” of public issues, has all sorts of ugly consequences. It makes the public think that politics is not for them unless they love the insider game; it makes the “what” and “why” of public issues indeed boring and unapproachable; and as a consequence of the latter, it makes the public stupider than it needs to be about the what and why.

    I saw some of those posts, and I had no idea bout the essay in Rolling Stone. I never clicked through, because I honestly don’t care about the politics of Al Gore “attacking” President Obama. Had someone told me it was about “the media failing to direct adequate attention to the issue”, I’d have been there in two seconds.

    I think Jim nails my problems with media coverage of health care reform, as well. I simply can’t read another story about how a new-found loophole in the PPACA is bad for President Obama or Democrats. I can’t read another headline on how the most recent decision of this or that governor is good or bad for the upcoming election. I can’t read another story about how waivers show the government is corrupt or the law is unpopular or that it’s good or bad for some politician.*

    Tell me what it means for real people.

    Tell me what the loophole is going do to the American public or the health care system. Tell me what experts propose to fix it.

    Tell me what the governor’s decision is going to mean for the residents of his or her state. Tell me why the governor made that decision, and why it’s good or bad for the state’s health care system.

    Tell me why the waivers are happening, and whether they should be allowed to continue or need to be stopped. Tell me what it means for the future of health care.

    Maybe then, I’ll click through.

    *I am purposely not going to link to these stories. Nor will I tweet about them or post on them.

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    • Ah, but the media IS focused. They’re focused on being balanced and unbiased. And that balanced and unbiased focus precludes them from telling you why anything happens or what it means to the average person. If the average person actually knew those things, they could form an opinion that could be bad for one side or the other and then the reporting wouldn’t be balanced and unbiased.

      At least that’s what we’re supposed to think.