Markos, Clinton and the Establishment Media

We need both national media and independent bloggers to cover elections.

I agree with Markos that the national political press corp is increasingly lacking in relevancy to the outcome of presidential elections. I agree that they’re whining about Hillary Clinton’s press availability by ignoring that she’s talked to the press, on average, more than once a day every day for the entire year. It’s just that she’s doing a lot more talking to local press and non-establishment media outlets like Refinery29.com and black radio. I also agree that when the national press does get an opportunity to ask Clinton questions, they too often ask about stuff that the Republicans have primed them to ask that has little relevancy to the folks in old steel towns in Western Pennsylvania or the people living in the crumbling infrastructure of cities like Detroit. There’s too much “gotcha” journalism and too much focus on fundraising, endorsements, polls, and other horse race metrics.

Having said all that, I don’t agree with Markos’s basic approach to the national media, which isn’t to educate or shame them, or even to show them by example how to do the job right. Instead it’s “They. Don’t. Matter. Freeze them out.”

Maybe it’s a personal bias since I’ve been in the blogging and media criticism game for eleven years now, but I think the national media is miles better than they were in the old days leading up to the invasion of Iraq. And I think bloggers deserve most of the credit because we offered competition and our barbs and commentary actually stung and led complacent people to work harder to get things right. We’ve used various techniques, from critical analysis, to moral shaming, to outright mockery and satire, to going out and asking the questions and conducting the interviews ourselves.

My point is that everyone benefited because there were more media, more accountability, less lazy stenographic reporting, and the government could no longer lead us so easily around in any direction they felt they needed us to go.

Of course, economically? That’s a different story. Blogging is still a labor of love rather than a career (with rare exceptions) and digitization has killed or is threatening to kill off all manner of creative endeavor, including the traditional print reporter.

On the whole though, things have gotten better because of outside media criticism. Yet, the need for good print journalists never went away and probably will never go away. What we need is a better press, not for them to be ignored or frozen out.

As advice for Clinton, it’s dubious but defensible. But, in the larger picture, it shouldn’t be a war of bloggers on mainstream corporate journalists. It should be more of a synergistic dance, a kind of mutual feedback loop, where the the sum becomes greater than the parts.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.