We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.
Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?
Also, stop lending legitimacy to Senate filibusters by treating a 60-vote hurdle as routine. The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be. Report individual senators’ abusive use of holds and identify every time the minority party uses a filibuster to kill a bill or nomination with majority support.
We need to move beyond broad generalizations about "the public interest, convenience, and necessity," which have given broadcasters enormous leeway in crafting their own definitions of their public interest obligations. We can do this only by developing a specific set of public interest requirements--not to restrict expression or dictate its specific content, but to expand and deepen the contribution of media to public life.
No matter what labels people use, their view of the role of government provides a window into the ideology that underlies their political views. Conservatives believe in small government; they prefer free markets and individuals to manage things as much as possible. Progressives believe in a more active government that performs more functions and provides more services.
Polling shows that the public is much closer to the progressive view. The latest survey of the National Election Studies (NES) shows, for example, a preference for a vigorous government role in a complex world. Sixty-seven percent said we need a strong government to handle complex economic problems. Nearly 58 percent said government should be doing more, not less; and 59 percent agreed that government has grown because the country's problems have grown.
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