Sunday, April 5, 2009

Use and Abuse of Bully Pulpits

I'm sure we'll get to campaign finance, lobbying, gerrymandering, and the 2 major political parties soon enough.

Right now, though, I'd like to take a minute to speak of the Press and its role in our elections and in the development and execution of public policy.

How do the newspapers you favor impact who you vote for? I don't know anyone who votes solely on basis of the Indy Star's endorsement of a candidate. But, the candidates all seem to want that endorsement, so it means something to somebody. I have two pet peeves about the Indy Star, and endorsements is one of them. Every year the editorial board shouts about the bone-headed stances and actions of various elected officials. Then, they endorse nearly every one of those folks for re-election. How can they reconcile those two views? Is it that they feel free to spout off until it might impact their business? What?

As for this year, they couldn't decide who to endorse for President. Nothing makes your respectability waiver quite as fast as checking the 'not sure' box of an important public opinion poll.

The other pet peeve about the Star is the market-driven structure of the east-west-north-south bureaus. If they want to chase the money to the suburbs, hey go for it. But, they are not fixing the structural problem they created for those of us who live in Marion County. That is - we may or may not get the section with our community or school news. Thus, the Star becomes a newspaper for only downtown news and whatever happens to spill in from the bureaus.

At a time when print newspapers are dropping like flies, one would think they would ask themselves - how can we keep the readers we have?

The role of the fourth estate in a democracy may be inexorably shifting to cable news and internet blogs. For good or for ill, the next round of endorsements you ignore may be from those newer outlets.

What opportunity is there to open up public access to records, create real public input in decisions of government, and real debate of public matters using the media resources that are fading as well as the ones just coming into their own?

Let's talk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's untold opportunity. One way to maximize it would be to dump the fluff reporting and focus more resources on the civic problems of the day.