We touched on something this week that I think it about everyday: the role of media in politics. Every article I read, every news video I watch, and every poll I look at, I’m always cognitive of a potential bias.
Joan Didion’s “Insider Baseball” article voiced an argument I fully agree with: journalists are mouthpieces for a campaign. Echoing Jay Alexander and Rasmus Kleis Neilson, Didion feels that candidates perform in front of the press, and then the captured glossy image of the candidate reverberates through ground games and media.
Didion says that journalists on a campaign are essentially serving as an advertising team. And they don’t even mind. Journalists on a campaign trail get to go to swanky events and feel important. Meanwhile they are contributing to the false narratives that perpetuate our political news, creating disconnect and polarization. Journalists, Didion says, “…are willing, in exchange for “access,” to transmit the images their sources wish transmitted. They are even willing, in exchange for certain colorful details around which a “reconstruction” can be built to present these images not as a story the campaign wants told but as fact.”
It’s part of the “the process.” Didion describes it as, “…a mechanism seen as so specialized that access to it is correctly limited to its own professionals, to those who manage policy and those who report on it, to those who run the polls and those who quote them, to those who ask and those who answer the questions on the Sunday shows, to the media consultants, to the columnists, to the issues advisers, to those who give the off-the-record breakfasts and to those who attend them; to that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life.”
Every campaign is like a story. There is a whole professional team that writes, edits, produces, and circulates the story so it will do better in sales.
Didion wrote “Insider Baseball” in 1988, but her article still rings true today. However, more people seem to be aware of bias. Most people know MSNBC leans left and FoxNews leans right. But people still tune in and listen to these news sources. And in doing so, maybe this has caused other political news to become competitive and offer what people seem to be buying. It would explain why we have seen a shift in media that offers more analysis instead of facts.
It’s hard to stay objective during analysis because a person is analyzing context. While there may be truth into what a journalist is picking up, I agree with Didion that journalists will twist articles to present a candidate in a better, but false light. But it’s not just candidates anymore; it’s about political parties. And it’s not just journalists on a campaign trial; it’s an entire political news source.
This brings up the question that is constantly on my mind: why have political news sources resorted to becoming a champion of one side of politics? Is there some sense of glory or self-importance in championing one side? Is it because of news sources trying to stay competitive with the evolving nature of media and giving people what they want to hear? I’d personally like to know because it has led to the extremely polarized nature of our political culture and my skepticism over any legitimate political news source.
Joan, Didion. “Insider Baseball.” The New York Review of Books. 27 Oct.1988. Web. 8 Oct. 2014.