17 June 2007

"Who's Ahead?" Leaves the Public Behind ...

[Inspired by Who's Ahead? No, Seriously...]

The most damaging aspect of the Master Narrative is the effect it has on the public's need for "cacaphonous conversation" and the damage it does to journalism in the media's relationship with the public:

Carey thinks we should “value the press in the precise degree that it sustains public life, that it helps keep the conversation going among us.” We should “devalue the press” in the degree that it seeks only to inform us or, worse, “turn us into silent spectators.” [ed: also see The People Formerly Known as the Audience]
As I've written before in response to a different PressThink post: How do we know if the press has got the politics part right?
When we have a press that is discursive with the public. It is not, currently, but is capable of becoming so. The press adheres to an expository epistemological system too often, and only becomes discursive with the public when attempting to "regain" trust.

Press politics currently is the commodification of eyeballs and ears. When press politics becomes the commodification of thought and speech by the public, then they'll have their politics right.
That requires a different narrative, Off the Grid Journalism:
It is what it is. This tries to be anti-narrative, not in some ultimate sense (Lundstrom intended to tell stories in the Bee) but just at the beginning, the intake stage. Look directly at the people being interviewed, treating each of them not as symbols for a larger electorate, whose mood (“the voters are angry”) is developing outside the frame, but as an electorate of one. She is who she is. That way you avoid the traps and dead spots in most back-to-the-people journalism....

Compared to horse race news and strategy coverage, with their intense scrutiny of the candidate’s every move; compared to “issues” journalism where abstractions—health care, education, taxes—walk the land; compared to political punditry, which lets a journalist speculate freely about the voters and what they want, Lundstrom’s “campaign coverage without the candidates” is a tough, unglamorous, and at times tedious truth discipline— a way of starting at the bottom, making journalism from scratch. Her essay helps us realize why polls became such a potent tool of the political press. For polls say you can avoid all this.
Like I said earlier, "There's plenty of time to get it right for 2008!"

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