Journalism used to be informing the public about what it needed to know. If you’ve ever seen the first couple of episodes of HBO’s “Newsroom” then you’ve seen a drama about the clash between modern “journalism” and real journalism. Now, that show went on to depict a heavy bias in it’s story line, but the conflict they portrayed in those first episodes was pretty accurate.
Journalism is dead. Instead, we have reporters and news sources that write to get page views and publish for ad revenue. I’m not naive enough to think that journalism used to not be about making money, but there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling journalistic integrity in the American news anymore. I’m sure there are notable exceptions, but, in general, news article and reports are slanted, left or right. Or toward whatever pet passion the author has.
Plus, many people think that an opinion piece, which might be written about the news, actually is the news. My blog is all opinion. Not news. I might report something, but I almost always cite an opinion about it.
Because we have almost no unbiased news sources to get the news from, we tend to find sources that match our own biases. I don’t go to CNN or CNBC, I go to Blaze or Fox or a conservative news source. We all succumb to something called “confirmation bias” where we search for, and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions. I don’t want to read the bias of a news reporter I don’t agree with, so I tend to read those that are like me. And they tend to report news that affirms my view of things. Journalism, as we once knew it, is dead.
If journalism is dead, who should moderate the GOP Presidential debates?
The current election cycle has brought this issue to the forefront. It started with Fox and continued until this most recent debacle on CNBC. These debates, which should be about informing the public, have become focused on generating ratings and entertainment. And reporters are more interested in delivering a stinging opinion than asking pertinent questions about a candidates policies and politics.
Much has been (angrily- don’t click this link unless you are OK with rough language) written about this last CNBC debate. I will post just a couple of the questions from news reporters to the GOP Presidential candidates to illustrate this:
To Carly Fiorina, regarding reducing the tax code to three pages: “You want to bring 70,000 pages to three? Is that using really small type? Is that using really small type?”
To Donald Trump: “Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”
Just two of the actual questions asked by reporters to Presidential candidates in this last debate. The tone of disrespect is just incredible.
So, obviously, Republicans are lviid. They have already pulled from a future NBC debate. And have begun talking about how they want to handle other debates. And the press has gotten it’s hackles up in defense. They claim it’s their job to ask hard questions.
And that’s true, but these were not hard questions, These questions would be more at home on a reality TV show than a debate platform.
So, what do we do?
The American people deserve to have hard, legitimate questions asked of candidates for the highest office in government. The current model isn’t working, and I don’t think we should have the campaigns run the debates either.
How can we hold a Presidential debate that would reflect a wider political bias?
-The Jury System– The major news networks still get to be a part of the debates and the associated ad revenue, but they don’t get to pick all of the moderators. Instead the GOP and the network get to propose 4-6 potential moderators each. And each gets 3 strikes. The network selects one, the GOP can accept or strike for any reason. (And the selection process is off the record.) The GOP selects one, and the network can accept of strike. The process continues until all 4 spots are filled. Both the GOP and network can strike moderators they dislike, but each gets at least one on the panel they like. The moderators select their own questions, and while they all know the questions in advance so they won’t double up, no other moderator can veto someone else’s question.
-The Youtube Debate- Youtube is a major online video platform. If anyone can handle the traffic, they can. The GOP works with Youtube (Or another platform). Major news networks can take a feed. By taking a feed, they are allowed to submit 2 questions that will be asked of each candidate. Americans are allowed to submit questions for the debate, and the GOP and Youtube pick from those questions. Youtube sells advertising, The networks agree to air a portion of Youtube’s ads, and then insert their own ads over the rest to cover their costs. GOP and Youtube split the cost of the venue. GOP and Youtube pick the actual moderators, who agree to ask the questions as submitted. Everyone can watch, either online or on TV. No one network can have influence over all the questions. The GOP doesn’t have say over all the questions.
Either of these models would result in a wider range of biases being represented in the questions. There would probably be some questionable questions, but that would be the exception, not the rule. It’s sad that we even have to worry about how to hold a fair debate, but at least when it comes to politics, journalism is dead.