Of course, I’m not optimistic that anyone will actually take me up on this idea. Even as political media becomes fractured along partisan lines, the impulse toward pack journalism remains deeply rooted. There’s a degree of professional safety for journalists whose reporting remains in step with the prevailing take on the news. At a broader level, news outlets little incentive to produce conflicting interpretations of an event; the authority of news coverage is implicitly premised on the idea that there is one objective set of facts to report. In reality, of course, news reporting is a process of selective interpretation—especially when it comes to debate reporting and commentary, which tend to focus on arbitrary and subjective stylistic judgments.
Legitimacy questions aside, however, it’s worth noting that the economic incentives that supported pack journalism are disappearing. Media outlets need to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace, and experimentation along the lines I’m suggesting could help us all learn something about the subjectivity of news judgment. Editors: take a chance!
*This sentence has been updated for clarity.