"Addressing some of political journalism’s long-standing shortcomings"
May 24, 2023 7:51 AM   Subscribe

"Several new or expanding outlets are addressing some of political journalism’s long-standing shortcomings", including venerable UK newspaper The Guardian

admittedly the US and Australian Guardian aren't hopelessly captured by TERFs, so that's a point in their favour
posted by Merus at 8:16 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]

I like the claim that the top news sources in this country, including the one printing this piece, have “consistently accurate coverage.”
posted by njohnson23 at 8:26 AM on May 24 [2 favorites]

Glad to hear the US Guardian is an improvement (?) - I had been avoiding the UK Guardian because of the TERFing.
posted by Dashy at 8:30 AM on May 24

The Guardian really suffers from social media syndrome--if you have an account on a faster-moving platform, you're getting the exact same content. I'm a reader because it's free and I'm getting my money's worth.

Honestly I don't really feel like there's a need for political journalism at this point, I feel like it's just there to extract money by getting me mad about things I can't change within the current system. I could use that subscription money on healthier stuff and the end result is the same whether I read this or read TMZ or watch porn, so...
posted by kingdead at 8:32 AM on May 24

(I'm a little surprised he didn't mention ProPublica.)

This is an informative and helpful summary, and I'm really glad to know about all these options. I've added them to my reading list to check out over the next few weeks.

Thank you so much for posting this, box - I'm really glad to know about these organizations.
posted by kristi at 8:41 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

I think there's a need for good political journalism, about local politics and policy and governance.

That said, way too much political journalism, including a lot of that practiced by his list of AP, CNN, NPR, NYT, WSJ, and WaPo, is not the good kind--it's access journalism and horse-race reporting, stories like 'here's another goddamn poll result,' and 'let's see what these uninformed randos think,' and 'people with obvious agendas predict the future,' and 'some attention-seeking asshole said something on tv.'
posted by box at 8:42 AM on May 24 [22 favorites]

Not to mention journalism's cowardly abandonment of objective journalism for the flawed and lazy balanced model, in which, say, Republican and Democratic claims about the effect of a policy are presented equally, no matter how much data one side has to back up their claim or how much incentive the other side has to lie.

My high school journalism teacher told his students that when a source lies to you, that's your story. But the media pretending -- or worse yet, not knowing -- that lies are equal to the truth just incentivizes politicians to lie about their preferred policy outcomes. For just one example, it allows Republicans to pass odious anti-LGBTQ legislation under unchallenged claims that they're "protecting children." Feh.
posted by Gelatin at 9:23 AM on May 24 [17 favorites]

Honestly I don't really feel like there's a need for political journalism at this point, I feel like it's just there to extract money by getting me mad about things I can't change within the current system.
In order to make sense of this sentence I have to assume you're talking about some very specific subset of political journalism.

Do I need to know about the latest inflammatory tweet from Marjorie Taylor Green? Probably not. But do I want to know about the relationship between a Supreme Court Justice and a billionaire, involving millions of dollars in "gifts"? Absolutely.

There is a huge amount of pointless political filler that could absolutely go away without leaving people noticeably less informed, but there is also important work that is essential to maintaining the informed public that is necessary to have a functioning democracy. It's worth talking about what can be done to promote the latter type..

on edit: it does seem like ProPublica is a curious omission in this context.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:37 AM on May 24 [12 favorites]

The thing is, even if I know about the billionaire giving gifts to a justice, what can I do about it? I have some credit card debt and a small car, that guy has a billion dollars. Whoever I vote for knows that too, so if there's a difference between my interests and his interests, they're going to pick his interests because he can give them so more money than I ever can.

It might be fun to read about billionaires in a conspiracy theory sort of way, but they're gonna do what they're gonna do whether I know about it or not.
posted by kingdead at 10:11 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

The point of the ProPublica article isn't to influence the billionaire's actions; it's to influence the governmental body that declared that unlimited secret anonymous money isn't inherently corrupting and therefore can't be regulated.

By revealing SCOTUS' corruption, ProPublica tarnishes the legitimacy of its Republican judges and possibly drives reform legislation.

The process isn't quick or easy, but outrage -- not just "so-and-so DESTROYS the opposition with a clever remark," but "billionaires are buying a friendly Supreme Court" outrage -- can change things. It's why Republicans keep complaining about "politicizing" every gun massacre -- "politicizing" -- that is, "we the people have had enough of this" -- is how things change.
posted by Gelatin at 11:02 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]

If they didn't think people knowing would make a difference, they wouldn't bother keeping their corruption a secret.
posted by Gelatin at 11:03 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]

kingdead, I would counter that your elected officials may share your interests in lots of areas, but they only have so much time and energy they can put into things, and they have to choose whether they're going to spend most of their energy this week championing better Medicare coverage or water rights or voting rights or support for Ukraine. Lots of legislators aren't siding with the billionaire in this particular case, and I think it's worth it to let them know when I appreciate (or disapprove of) my elected officials' actions, and to let them know where I'd like them to spend their limited energy and resources. Good political journalism helps me do that.

Also, please do take 60 seconds to skim the ProPublica Impact page. In particular, these stories have made a real difference to real people, at a fundamental level, and a local level, almost never covered by CNN and other national outlets:

* Regulators Overhaul Inspections of Hospice Providers
* Colorado Lawmakers Mandate Audit of Halfway Houses Following ProPublica Investigation
* Washington State Legislature Strengthens Oversight of Private Special Education Schools

And, of course, the current scandal over the billionaires' illegal gifts to a Supreme Court justice - including investigations by Senators - came about because of the hard work of political journalists:

Congress Members Announce Hearing, Demand Chief Justice Investigate Clarence Thomas’ Trips

This is incredibly valuable work, and I'm glad these professionals are doing it, and I'm glad that, thanks to this thread, I now know about more journalists who are doing it. It can inform my communications with my elected officials - and even when that doesn't happen, it can shine light on appalling abuses and lead to better care in hospice facilities, halfway houses, and private schools.
posted by kristi at 11:07 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]

Great to see all these and hope they stick around!

Especially excited to see Hammer & Hope commissioning original photography alongside their reporting.

I'm a little biased as a working news photographer who frequently covers politics, but one thing that always disappoints me about these new media startups is how often visual journalism is an afterthought (if it's even thought about).

There's data that shows the value of good news photography, but it's rare for publications, especially these new publications, to devote any resources to it. Instead the publications use handout photos, generic stock photos, boring wire photos, or have the writers take something "good enough" (usually not good enough). An example of the not good enough: Look at the middle photo on this article from one of States Newsroom's publications. They apologize for how bad the photo is in the caption, whereas a pro photographer would've just adjusted shutter speed to fix the issue (though a picture of that sign wouldn't even make the edit of a decent photo editor); I don't mean to pick on The Washington State Standard...just randomly clicked to them from the States Newsrooms website. Of course a newsroom with a strong visual team would've worked to get access inside or to some of the workers' conditions to create some compelling imagery of the people involved and how they are affected, which would further help draw readers in, humanize the story, etc.

Here's some discussion of a news photo eye tracking study done in 2015 (and which is now sadly hard to find online in a quick googling).

Anyway, all of this is to say that when the publications don't spend much thought on the visual side of news, it's hard for readers to differentiate the publications at a glance, harder for stories to go viral (photos show up in feeds before any text from the article), harder to draw the casual reader, harder to get people interested in dense reporting, etc.

From the links, The American Prospect's illustrations at least give the publication an identity that stands out; if I saw a link from them with an illustration in a social media feed, I would know it was from that particular publication and knowing what I know about the publication, that would help me decide to click on it.

But Balls and Strikes, Bolts, Popular Information, and the States Newsroom sites I've seen, all look like a bunch of other publications. They could be Axios or Semafor or FiveThirtyEight or Vox or the Hill or The Messenger (a recently-created new low in these sorts of sites) or plenty of other sites. Click on a story about politics and you'll see someone standing at a podium or near an American flag and it's hard to differentiate.
posted by msbrauer at 12:21 PM on May 24 [6 favorites]

+1 to msbrauer and also, I am convinced that part of what drove the coverage of the Justin Jones story across the country was that he stood with his fist in the air for several minutes and so there are multiple quite striking photos of him looking like an activist rather than a politician, and it was easy for the journalists there to get a shot of that. I thought that was really smart of him, though he may well have just been communicating with the protesters and not doing it to grab eyeballs on social media. But each of the 7 or 8 versions of that photo (e.g. NPR, CBC) is striking just because he's not like standing next to a flag in front of a podium.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:17 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]

Bolts Magazine is terrific, and its founder Daniel Nichanian (@taniel) is a very sharp follow if you're still on Twitter.
posted by mediareport at 3:09 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this because although it's a timely, informative article, where are the links? Yes I know, there's a lot in TFA but it seems to be omitting the general links to these mostly-new-to-me sources which box usefully placed up there, just below the fold.
posted by Rash at 5:09 PM on May 24

I had not heard of several of these sources before, and I'm excited to dig into them.

As a resident of unincorporated DeKalb County and the South River watershed and a stream ecologist still working against Cop City despite the odds absolutely not being in our favor, I really appreciated the Bolts article linking our fight to the "critical infrastructure" laws all over the country. It still blows my mind that just a couple miles from where Dr. King is entombed, people are being arrested for trespassing (i.e., exactly what lunch counter protesters were doing) and being charged with domestic terrorism, so seeing this in the nationwide context of these new laws helped me understand this local issue better.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:30 AM on May 25

Honestly, the "reading series" on chapo is what keeps me coming back to what is otherwise an extremely divisive podcast.

Just being able to listen to a few other adults absolutely cackling over article culture, pointing out the complete absurdity of what passes as "political commentary" these days, it's a breath of fresh air. I can listen to those dorks riff on interviews with Mayor Pete for hours. It is all so blindingly stupid and meaningless and frustrating that the only sane reaction is laughter.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:33 AM on May 25

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