A Few Stories for Idea-challenged Reporters in Boston

We generally don’t practice prescriptive journalism, except by indirection, but some of our readers do. Slightly abridged, here is a contribution from Jan Schaffer, a seasoned reporter and avid Campaign Desk reader who has just about had it with the current crop of convention coverage:

I think you are doing a great job at Campaign Desk.

But I’m totally exasperated that journalists at the convention gripe that they can’t find “stories to cover.” Maybe they should rethink their definition of “news.” Or get out of the biz.

If journalists can’t find any stories to cover, here are a few to try:

1) With the party preaching unity, where are the fault lines among the delegates? Age? Gender? Race? Geography? Income? Education?

2) What does it mean that this year, citizens are using new media forms to participate in political life in news ways — e-mailing the Dean “scream,” scoring it to music, producing ads, making movies? What does this say about mainstream media’s coverage of issues that these alternative forms of information have emerged? What does this say about what we use as standard barometers of civic participation? Is the new civic participation media participation?

3) Let’s talk emotions: What are the subterranean emotions of these delegates. Let’s get beyond the fact that they don’t like Bush. What do they most fear — not about a candidate, but about their lives? About the USA, writ large? What scares them, going forward? Or enrages them? What makes them happy or confident? How do they feel about the news media’s identification and coverage of issues? Are they the right issues? What issues do they not give a xxx about, but the media saturates anyway? What issue would they most like to see the next president address? What are their aspirations for the US? For their families?

4) Money Fatigue. Journalists are bandying around the millions of dollars raised by both campaigns. How about a little Journalism 101: Please place these dollar amounts into some kind of context. How much healthcare would it provide to the uninsured? How many bullet proof vests or tanks or oil pipelines would it buy for Iraq? How many schools or houses would it build? Etc. Etc.

5) Just where is George Soros, anyway?

6) The X-Files: Just when did telling two sides of a story mean you have to put on the air Xtreme political pundits, regurgitating their talking points? Who’s striving to provide more context and commentary on the specter of possibilities being raised?

7) Is there common ground on issues and aspirations among the Dems and the GOP? If so, what is that common ground?

[Editor’s note: And that’s just for starters.]

Jan Schaffer

Jan Schaffer, a former business editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and co-winner of a Pulitzer Prize, is currently the executive director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism in College Park. Maryland.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Steve Lovelady was editor of CJR Daily.