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Hullabaloo


Monday, September 30, 2013

 
Where's the process story media when you need them?

by David Atkins

Most of the critiques that partisan bloggers (particularly on the progressive side) make against traditional journalists can be boiled down to two main arguments. First is the "both sides do it" ethic that eschews facts in order to appear unbiased. Second is the focus on political process stories over substance stories.

To be sure, the "both sides do it" press has been dreadful in covering the impending shutdown, acting as though there were a negotiating stalemate at play rather than a one-sided hostage taking of the American government and economy.

But remarkably, the press' beloved process stories are scarce in recent days. It's easy to find substantive articles detailing the consequences of a government shutdown. But the usual process stories detailing the blow by blow moves and counter moves aren't as ubiquitous as usual.

That's partly because the process story here is very unusual but fairly simple: Republicans are using the power of the purse in the House in make hostage-taking demands they could not get under normal legislative circumstances. An analysis of the process at work here would look very bad for conservatives. Journalists in turn would worry about accusations of bias for telling the truth.

Which goes to show that the main reason we usually get process stories over substance stories is not just that they're easier to write, but that substance stories about which side wants to provide health insurance to people versus which side wants to cut Social Security and ban birth control would look fairly damning to Republicans.

But when the usually dull process story makes Republicans look even worse, then suddenly the process story goes out the window.

It isn't bias if it's true. The traditional media should spend more pixels and ink making clear to the public just how unusual and outrageous it is for one party to holding the entire government hostage like this--particularly less than a year away from an election in which the hostage takers lost handily.


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