The 2006 election season is already kicking into cranium-grinding gear. But before things get too messy, a group of media observers recently asked a collection of seasoned journalists to put aside the minutiae of political reporting for a moment and think about big-picture changes that could improve news coverage in the upcoming campaign season.
“Do you have any practical suggestions for improving American political coverage in 2006? (For starters, if it helps: Is the press too adversarial, not adversarial enough; what were the biggest shortcomings of 2004 and how can they be avoided this time?)”
“Some veteran American journalists see the 2006 elections as offering the press a momentous opportunity to revolt against the status quo of spoon-fed sound bites and he said/she said coverage,” wrote Sussman and Froomkin.
What would such a revolt look like?
“Instead of spending time getting reaction quotes, test the veracity and authenticity of the original statement,” wrote Valerie Hyman, a 1987 fellow. “Journalists are under no legal obligation to provide equal space and/or time to opposing candidates.”
“I’d like to see news organizations develop strong investigative units to tackle significant topics, away from the headline of the moment,” wrote Bruce Locklin, a 1978 fellow. “Let the pack chase today’s sensation while the diggers determine what questions need answering and then go get the answers.”
“We need to be using our increasingly scarce resources to cover DIFFERENT political stories,” wrote Geneva Overholser, a 1986 fellow. “Some scandal breaks, and we all pile on, while problems arise elsewhere with no eyes on them.”
Said 1993 fellow Dori J. Maynard: “Journalists need to make sure they are talking with a diverse group of people: the shop clerk, the cab driver, the admitting nurse at the doctor’s office.”
All of which is music to our ears.