Too many of those who write or report for the national media have lost the thread of the purpose of journalism: sharing information. One only has to look at the Washington Post’s White House reporter Annie Linskey’s thoughtless tweet earlier this week (that she quickly deleted…but not before it was captured via a screenshot) to see the truth of this statement.
It was a Sunday. Biden goes to church on Sunday. The hometown church he attends has a cemetery, where his first wife and two children are buried. Any thoughtful White House reporter — who operated from a place of empathy and understanding — would realize that fact. They would also know that legislation gets negotiated — endlessly — before it is enacted. Just because a Republican party that isn’t interested in governing would like us to believe that the Democrats are in disarray, doesn’t mean that good political reporters have to repeat Mitch McConnell’s self-serving talking points.
The best reply I saw was this one on Twitter:
“Annie Linskey is the winner of today’s ‘Aw Crap I Forgot Twitter Isn’t A Cocktail Party At Sally Quinn’s House In 1982’ Award.“Please mess with Texas
Dan Froomkin at Presswatch — a site developed as “an intervention for political journalism” — began a new series to help journalists like Ms. Linskey who were having difficulty finding the correct lede. He recently wrote, “As a companion piece to my post on a tragically problematic New York Times article about Thursday’s delayed vote in Congress, I’d like to try something new.
I’ll call it: “Let me rewrite that for you.”
I’m going to take a handful of recent articles that I felt badly missed the mark, and offer alternative ledes or nut graphs that I think do a better job of telling the truer story.“
Froomkin spent 12 years at the Washington Post, where he served as editor of the website and wrote its enormously popular White House Watch column, which aggregated and amplified insightful political coverage. So he knows whereof he speaks.
He has several examples of bad journalism from this first post in the series. I’ll highlight parts of just one, an objectionable September 28 story in the Washington Post by Timothy Bella with the headline “N.C. hospital system fires about 175 workers in one of the largest-ever mass terminations due to a vaccine mandate.”
Froomkin begins by sharing the first paragraph of the original story.
“A North Carolina-based hospital system announced Monday that roughly 175 unvaccinated employees were fired for failing to comply with the organization’s mandatory coronavirus vaccination policy, the latest in a series of health-care dismissals over coronavirus immunization.
And Froomkin’s response?
“Let me rewrite that for you!
First, let me rewrite the headline, as per the suggestion of Mark Lukasiewicz, dean of Hofstra University’s school of communication: ‘N.C. hospital network employees accept vaccine mandate with 99.5% compliance.‘”
As for the rewritten top.
“A North Carolina-based hospital system is reporting a stunning level of compliance with its vaccine mandate, assuaging fears that scores of employees would quit and leave patients untended.
Novant Health spokeswoman Megan Rivers told The Washington Post that more than 99 percent of the system’s roughly 35,000 employees have followed the mandatory vaccination program. She said in a statement that Novant Health was ‘thrilled’ those who chose to be vaccinated have given patients and visitors ‘better protection against COVID-19 regardless of where they are in our health system.’”
See. Isn’t that easy?
In today’s world, those who control the narrative too often control the power. As we are beginning to see in the global revelations of the Pandora Papers, those who seek to divide us for their own self interest and financial gain do so in order to rise in strength. And they use media to help drive their agendas.
The use of power to divide and conquer has been on vivid display over the past two decades in America. Writing in Mother Jones magazine, Kevin Drum details how a desire for power and money by an Australian billionaire is The Real Source of America’s Rising Rage. Conspiracy theories, social media, and racism are all part of the mix, but Rupert Murdoch’s hold on the right wing narrative — with his push to create constant fear, anger, and resentment — is the one piece that has been in place since Americans began hating each other in ways not seen since the Civil War.
It is time we all tell our stories and help rewrite the narratives too many of our fellow citizens are receiving.
More to come…
Image by Anne Karakash from Pixabay.
In her October 11th, “Letters from an American”, Historian Heather Cox Richardson spoke of the need for journalist to stop playing games and recognize the existential threat the Republican Party under Donald Trump represents to democracy. You can find that letter at https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/october-11-2021.