Is public journalism, journalism? (1996) | THINK TANK

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Ben Wattenberg: hello, Im Ben Wattenberg. In contemporary years, newspapers have prided themselveson the Joe Friday institution of journalism: just the facts, maam. However some thing new is now stated to be on thescene. It goes by using distinctive names, like public journalism,civic participation, neighborhood journalism, conclusive journalism. It doesn’t matter what you call it, this journalismsets out to head beyond just the tips and tries to form the agenda. Query: is this new? Is this a liberal trick? Joining us variety through the conflict and consensusare Jane Eisner, editorial page editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, which recentlywon the Gold Medal from the countrywide association of Opinion page Editors; Steve Cuozzo, executiveeditor of the brand new York submit and writer of Its Alive: How Americas Oldest NewspaperCheated dying and Why It concerns; James Fishkin, chairman of the division of governmentat the institution of Texas and creator of The Voice of the persons; and Jodie Allen, Washingtoneditor of the net journal Slate and former editor of the Outlook part on the WashingtonPost.The topic before this condominium: Is public journalismjournalism? The Philadelphia Inquirers new editorialpolicies mirror the objectives of public journalism. In a controversial sequence, two Inquirer reporterscritiqued US monetary policy. The title of the sequence explains its thrust:the us: Who Stole the Dream? The authors expressed strong and stronglydisputed opinions within the information section on web page 1. They proposed, among other things, highertariffs, immigration restrictions, and raising taxes on the rich. Different aspects of public journalism includea heavier reliance on public participation via center of attention companies, reader polls, readereditorials, newspaper-subsidized civic corporations, and candidate forums. All of it sounds excellent, however critics say votersend up spoon-fed with the views of the establishment media. For illustration, in North Carolina, led by TheCharlotte Observer, the essential media used polls and center of attention businesses in an try to shape theagenda and then drive the insurance policy of the Senate crusade.Sen. Jesse Helms refused to play alongside, sayinghe must be allowed to run on his report, for excellent or for in poor health. Jane Eisner, public journalism is aterribly amorphous phrase. What are we speakme about? Jane Eisner: well, it is vitally amorphous, andI think thats some of the problems with it. So i can only answer what it method to me asan editorial page editor. Ben Wattenberg: k. Jane Eisner: Its really quite simple. I think it just means, from my point of view,involving readers far more on the pages of my editorial pages, whether or not thats in editorials,op-ed pieces, or letters.And to do this, I consider you particularly have toreach out to individuals who would not often write to us. , now not everybody has a press agentor a fax computer and might send flawlessly structured, 800-word op-ed portions to primary newspapers. And its to these persons, whether or not theyreyounger or disenfranchised or just dont suppose that had been focused on what theythink, these are the people that we are achieving out to. Ben Wattenberg: Professor James Fishkin, whatis it all about? James Fishkin: Public journalism? Good, Im a social scientist. Im now not a journalist. But Ive gotten involved in a number of projectsthat humans time period public journalism, so i assume Im an recommend of it, and Idiscuss it in my e-book.Public journalism, I consider, means journalisticinstitutions take some accountability for making a public. By using a public, I mean residents who can talkto every different concerning the issues, are told concerning the problems, and whose voice is facilitatedin a way. So it additionally means airing the peoples agendaon the problems, not simply horse race of the campaign, but the problems that individuals reallywant to listen to about, no longer just tabloid journalism, whos snoozing with whom or whatever, butissues that honestly affect peoples lives, as usual humans construe that. Now, its very elaborate to pull off, and myinterest in that is in anything referred to as deliberative polling, which represents what the publicwould suppose concerning the issues in the event that they grew to be engaged.Ben Wattenberg: Which you did on PBS earlierthis 12 months. James Fishkin: sure, yes. Ive now been involved in eight deliberativepolls, some countrywide, on PBS with the presidential candidates, some in different countries. Ben Wattenberg: All correct, good come backto that in just a minute. Jodie Allen, what do you suppose of these items? Jodie Allen: well, I consider its being oversold. I believe that whats good in it isnt newand whats new in it isnt necessarily just right. Without doubt, its just right for a newspaper tobe in contact with the people that its serving, to head out and do excellent reporting on whatsreally concerning them each locally, but in addition nationally, and thats a threat when wesimply get too much hand-protecting of dont you feel dangerous in these days. And i worry so that I dont think that thatis new. If youre a good newspaper, youre outthere attaining into your group, seeing whats going on, following it. However what worries me is that you just do see thismove within the news pages, now not on the editorial pages, however in the case of The PhiladelphiaInquirer, correct on the information pages, where crusades are being run pretending to be news, obviouslywith powerful and selective selections of the information, or in some circumstances, fully ballot pushed andcutting the politicians out of the political system and rather turning the manage overto the pollsters.Ben Wattenberg: Steve, he mentioned the magicword tabloid, and he did not say in it in a pleasant manner. You’re the executive editor of the worldsgreatest tabloid. Steve Cuozzo: And champion of tabloid values. Ben Wattenberg: right. Steve Cuozzo: Which I define in a somewhatdifferent way from normal definitions. Tabloid journalism is journalism pushed bya centered awareness on contributors as particular from the workings of associations. So even supposing we cover associations, such asgovernment or the Federal Reserve, we tend to take action from the factor of with the perspectivethat theyre run via character guys and females. However my experience of public journalism is this:that in NY city, an extraordinarily distinct and particular market, we observe a very differentform of public journalism altogether, which consists in having three every day newspapers,at the least 5 television stations broadcast, plus cable channels, and probably a half of dozenodd weekly magazines, month-to-month magazines. And all and sundry, with the intention to communicate, wake up everymorning and scream our brains out about the whole lot, every from a different perspective and a differentideological every pursuing, kind of blatantly, an additional ideological agenda.Out of that cacophony of voices emerges somethingresembling actuality or reality. Ben Wattenberg: what is all this entire thingthats going on? I imply, you’ve all these vivid young journalismmajors in tuition and bright younger journalists talking about this wonderful new factor andraising high this commonplace. Jane Eisner: good, I think theres anotherelement to it, and it pertains to what Jim mentioned, which is that I believe there are manyof us who do think that we’ve got a accountability to create a safe area for a deliberativedialogue, that it is a part of our roles to do this. Sick give you one illustration. Ben Wattenberg: A risk-free area for a deliberativedialogue. Jane Eisner: Mmhmm. Its not talk radio.Its now not persons yelling at each and every other. However its not also what typical op-edpages were like. For illustration, our newspaper will do what itsalways finished, which is recommend candidates on this election cycle, and we will be able to interviewthe candidates and study them and talk to people about them and dissect their files. But in some circumstances, were additionally going outand meeting with voters from these districts. Ben Wattenberg: Why isnt what the new YorkPost does group journalism, public journalism? Jane Eisner: Im particularly no longer very hung upon these labels. I dont to find them very adequate at all. , I simply feel its just right journalismwith a slightly broader framework than what weve had previously.Jodie Allen: but I suppose theres a big differencebetween what Jane does on her editorial page, where I believe wed all agree thats theplace the place opinions should be, and the predominant thrust of the new, quote, unquote, publicjournalism, which apparently sufficient, the American Journalism evaluate says is notso preferred among younger reporters, but among older publishers looking for approaches to makemoney. But it’s quite yet another factor for frontpages to move out and have polls finished or to head out, as in one case, and inform all theirreporters to talk to four persons, which seemed to be a as a substitute small pattern, and are available backand make a decision, as is the case in North Carolina proper now, what the total range of issuesthat are going to be blanketed shall be, no longer just in one paper, but in several papers andseveral tv stations, with the influence that the precise candidates running down there,candidates like Harvey Gantt, are having no protection at all, are unable to get their messageout.It is a real getting rid of of the politicalprocess from politicians, who, some thing their faults, their fault just isn’t by and large that theyrenot poll pushed ample, however that theyre too ballot driven. James Fishkin: Most advocates of public journalismI know dont say that say that you just must cover the crusade, however you duvet it ina different means and from yet another angle and also you deliver in the issues that contact peopleslives as good because the horse race, which dominates the whole thing. I imply, we now have democracy thats not reallyfunctioning all that good.I communicate as a political scientist. When you appear at the turnout, should you appear atthe expertise that residents have concerning the campaign, I imply, forty percent dont knowthat Jack Kemp is Bob Doles jogging mate, and a quarter dont recognize the vice presidentis Clintons running mate. This was a Washington publish/Kaiser be taught recently. So weve acquired a public that is simply barelyattentive that reacts to a vague impact of sound bites and headlines.And if your concept of public journalism iseverybody shouting at each different, its difficult for people to think when everybodys shouting. Ben Wattenberg: how will you tellthem to feel with a public opinion ballot? James Fishkin: Ah. Good, I dont. Im no longer an Im a critic of conventionalpublic opinion polls. I have a new approach, which I call deliberativepolling.Do you wish to have me to assert a word about that? Ben Wattenberg: About one or a few. [Laughter.] James Fishkin: The idea of deliberative pollingis to head past traditional public opinion polling given that for those who just do conventionalpolling to advocate newspapers or whatever, you may also good simply reflect back the publicsvague affect of whats already being blanketed. But there is a further query. What would the men and women think if they actuallyhad an opportunity to overcome what social scientists have referred to as rational lack of awareness? I mean, theres a reason the publicsturned off. If Ive received one vote in thousands, why shouldI pay numerous attention to the complexities of public policy? When you consider that I wont have so much outcomes.But if we can create a social context wherepeople clearly can get engaged in the disorders, the place they think their voice matters, theypay attention. They do the rough work of taking note of competing Ben Wattenberg: and also you introduced together 500people as a nice sample and put them to tuition, truly, for a couple of days, studying theseissues. James Fishkin: good, we introduced put thewhole country in a single room beneath conditions where they could think by way of the issuesand ask their questions of competing professionals and competing politicians, including the vicepresident, over a number of days of discussion. And in instruction for that, they startedlistening to the media, studying up on the problems, speakme to pals and family, hearingcompeting facets of view.And we had dramatic alterations of opinion abouttheir view of the priorities. Steve Cuozzo: Forgive my announcing so, however theelitism inherent in that statement takes my breath away. Its underlying assumption appears to be thatthe public is incapable of making up its possess mind or listening or applying any criticalthinking to disorders in an atmosphere wherein there are lots of voices being heard. It strikes me that in lots of the marketswhere Im no longer a pleasant believer in polls or in center of attention businesses; Im a believer in themarket. And in lots of the areas in the us wherepublic journalism has taken maintain, I become aware of that, most commonly, they have an inclination overwhelminglyto be in cities which might be monopoly newspaper markets, small cities, medium-sized cities,with only a single newspaper, which is tends to be march in lock step with the advertisingcommunity. In bigger cities, together with Philadelphia andBoston, it perpetually tends to be the paper, within the case of The Inquirer or The Globe inBoston, the paper that’s totally dominant in that market. And it seems to me that in a metropolis with a diversityof media voices, as in ny, or in the nation as a entire, which has a diversityof media voices, its unthinkable that public journalism, as I appreciate you men and women, drawingin result, drawing yourself in with the voters to affect the political agenda, would reallytake location.Who determines what the issues are that matterto voters rather than the voters themselves? Do they must be guided and informed from onhigh? James Fishkin: The idea is first, the assumptionis no longer that men and women are incapable; as an alternative, theyre no longer with ease motivated. Actually, we now have discovered that they arevery capable of assessing problems if you happen to just give them a context the place they can speak toother folks and where they’ve some cause to pay attention and become engaged. Jane Eisner: I take first-rate challenge about thisbeing elitist. First of all, Im simply doing what Imdoing on my pages, and that is basically just right reporting. And its the sort of reporting that an editorialpage editor hasnt carried out in the past on The Philadelphia Inquirer. I spend a whole lot much less time at cocktailparties with the elite within the Philadelphia vicinity and more time simply being in gatheringsand being attentive to natural men and women. And its Ben Wattenberg: and also you run fewer syndicatedcolumns.Jane Eisner: No, thats no longer real. Ben Wattenberg: not genuine? Jodie Allen: The editorial pages are turningto reporting considering that the reporting pages are turning to editorializing. But I feel I a lot pick Steves modelwhere we let the entire vegetation bloom, however actually that were getting fewer and fewer[inaudible]. It appears to me then that we need to demandmore objectivity of a newspaper, less cheerleading, much less leading of crusades when its onlyone than when there are five. And so I consider the whole development runs in thewrong approach. Ben Wattenberg: There was once a ballot run recentlythat requested in regards to the ideological leanings of the Washington press corps and their editors. It was overwhelmingly, beyond anybodysprior notion, that they were a long way more liberal than the public as a whole. If the public journalism advocates are announcing,boy, we ought to get extra of us within the story and give an explanation for to folks whats wrong, isntthat automatically going to come back out much more as a trick of liberals to do more ofwhat theyve been criticized for? James Fishkin: No, its to get the peopleinto the story, no longer the pundits.No longer the pundits. And its to facilitate the humans comingto their possess conclusions and getting the peoples agenda aired within the newspaper so that peoplecan connect with the experiences. Ben Wattenberg: So youre going to have10 young journalists, 9 of whom are liberals, going out and discovering that the folks reallyhave a conservative agenda. Is that what were saying? James Fishkin: No, no. No, thats why Ive devised this elaborateprocess of random sampling of the persons and of the whole lot being obvious in terms ofeverything that is given to Ben Wattenberg: No, I appreciate that, butIm speaking about this common inspiration, which we nonetheless have not properly defined,incidentally, of Jane Eisner: but it surely cant be outlined. I mean, each newspaper is doing things intheir own means, and i feel thats one of the crucial problems with public journalism. And Ive written about this. I suppose the persons who are type of leadingthis action havent been discerning enough.I dont suppose that theyve stated that thereare some things newspapers ought to not do. And that i dont believe that its our function toshape the agenda besides on the editorial pages. I do suppose its our function to pay attention, especiallyto the men and women that we dont probably listen to. Steve Cuozzo: nevertheless it appears to me that if editorsand publishers need to spend money on the civic procedure of interaction between elected officialsand the voters alternatively, allow them to run for mayor, allow them to run for councilman,and allow them to, you know, take these steps that mean real funding in the method.James Fishkin: I feel newspapers and thepress almost always, the media, must be concerned with getting people discussing the issuesin an instructed way. You know, we had a enormous debate among presidentialcandidates. The actual future of democracy rests now not withthe debate amongst candidates, but with the controversy among the persons. Will we facilitate a debate among the many persons? Then folks that need to vote can come to a decision tovote, however as a minimum if they vote, theyll be instructed. However its a intricate system to figure outhow do we genuinely get them engaged adequate so that theyll even pay concentration. Ben Wattenberg: Jodie, what’s looking for tobe born right here? Jodie Allen: good, it appears to be that thebig case at the back of it’s a want to sell extra newspapers. Now, that is not a brand new concern on the partof newspaper publishers. Ben Wattenberg: to not come to be part of theprocess and purvey their precise ideological, style of goody-two-sneakers establishment sortof a thing, in my phrases? Jodie Allen: well, a few of that, too.But I suppose as you look, and when you lookespecially at a chain like Knight Ridder, which has been a chief within the public journalismidea, they are concerned, as are all publishers, about the fact that newspaper earnings have notbeen growing and in some cities have been declining. And theyre watching at all of the competitiontheyre getting from tv and from the web etc, and so they want to boostsales. And so they say, well, the right way to increase salesis to make the paper extra vital to peoples considerations. But that, you understand, its a common impulse,however its a detrimental one. One should depart from the idea of our job,find it irresistible or now not, is to present the information and the details as relatively as we are able to, realizing wedont continuously do it right.We are able to reward it in a more interesting approach,and that i think this has been a good move. However to then slavishly flip it into wellgo out and do a poll and let individuals tell us what we already knew and, keep in mind, everybodyknows that pollsters decide, A, what questions to ask, and B, learn how to ask them, and that theanswers they get no longer in Jims variety of poll, but thats not what have been talking about. Ben Wattenberg: And moreover, when politiciansfollow polls, we are saying, Oh, my God, theyre doing a terrible thing. Jodie Allen: Oh, isnt it horrible? So now heres the newspaper Ben Wattenberg: after which when newspapers followpolls, we are saying, Isnt that extraordinary? Jodie Allen: sure.Why would that be? Jane Eisner: I believe it I mean, Imnot going to shield that. We dont do that, and that i on no account would. But I do think you have got to watch out herebecause youre talking about a whole lot of newspapers doing a entire lot of differentthings, and that i believe its now not fair to brandish them all with one style of brush. I imply, I consider you, Jodie. We have under no circumstances carried out pollings here. I agree with you, Steve. We havent performed voter registration drives;yet another newspaper in Philadelphia did. I’d to find that to be a to compromiseour independence due to the fact that, correctly, the news side of The Philadelphia Inquirer did a terrificjob a number of years ago of uncovering a vote fraud scandal that was perpetuated through the very peoplewho had been seeking to get folks to signal up for votes.So I couldnt do this. Steve Cuozzo: Thats journalism. Jane Eisner: I mean, I simply believe like thatwould be really out of bounds. Steve Cuozzo: I believe that what youre doingon The Inquirer isnt public journalism, as youve defined it, Jim, notwithstandingthat there’s a targeted fuzziness in regards to the definition. Identification make one more point. Jodie, you mentioned, you already know, that publishersare promoting or tolerating public journalism of their pages with the hope of selling morepapers.And my wager is that theyre quite doingit to sell more advertising. I dont consider that anybody has any greathope of turning on a younger new release that doesnt have the newspaper addiction to goingout and buying newspapers in exceptional numbers. I believe nothing turns into a monopoly newspapermore in its market, or the dominant newspaper in its market when there’s one obviously dominant,than an aura of objectivity and civic accountability. And frankly, the form of public journalismthat promotes a variety of total, fuzzily outlined, good executive agenda lets get peopleout and vote, lets seem on the problems that quite matter to their lives is blandenough to promote that charisma of objectivity and promote extra division retailer commercials. Ben Wattenberg: you are pronouncing its a fakepopulism, whereas the tabloid voice is the true populism. Steve Cuozzo: Im not saying that the tabloidvoice in itself is the real populist voice. I say that the multiplicity of voices is thereal populist voice.Ben Wattenberg: correct. James Fishkin: might I introduce an historicalnote for a 2nd? Ben Wattenberg: sure. James Fishkin: the general public opinion poll wasitself launched with the aid of newspapers, and newspapers had been attacked for intervening within the politicalprocess after they did so. And correctly, most dramatically, even GeorgeGallups preliminary launch of the ballot within the 1936 election used to be financed, in gigantic section,with the aid of The Washington submit. So now, when newspapers habits polls, theyhave an result on the election. All these horse race polls have an effect bandwagon results, momentum results, obviously within the predominant season, and in the generalelection.Now, by some means thats now come to be a part of themodus operandi of newspapers, and its now not inspiration that theyre intervening. But they’re intervening. My exact proposal is: Why not intervenewith polls that measure in a more considerate method what the public would think? But these different efforts to seek advice the publicare just efforts. They’re much less dramatic interventionsin the political system than what newspapers are doing all the time. Jane Eisner: I truthfully feel weve setup a false dichotomy here, appearing as if theres objective journalism in some pure form thatused to be practiced until very just lately and this new variety of brand of public journalism,when in fact we continuously make judgments and picks in our journalism.We attempt to do it. You recognize, we are professionals, and so wetry to do it as quite as possible. But we are settling on. We are identifying to explain a political campaignas a battlefield, or we can decide upon to describe it as a discussion. And we use those phrases every day. Ben Wattenberg: is this tendency towards publicjournalism, whatever it method, impacting on this election this year? Jodie Allen: I dont believe its had avery gigantic outcomes on the presidential election. One cause is that individuals are simply now not veryconcerned about some thing. What the polls show is that even though crimepops up as the absolute best hindrance, thats seeing that it will get a ten percentage vote, which is why thisyear paying attention to polls is specifically misleading. But it is making a difference in some stateand regional elections, North Carolina being one very clear example. And i dont consider its making youknow, that its having a just right effect.I believe its having a worrisome result. Ben Wattenberg: The paper there is settingthe agenda and forcing the candidates to talk about that or they wont duvet them anymore. Jodie Allen: Theyre not even overlaying thecandidates. Theyre variety of masking themselves, andits just variety of statewide thumb-sucking. I quite with the television going alongside withit. I believe its a bad thing. Its no longer democracy as I are aware of it. And that i consider there is to select up on somethingJane said, I feel shes right that newspapers are getting if you appear at the long run,theyve surely gotten better instructed and, actually, more goal. But that has been their goal. When you now swap the intention and say, no,put out of your mind the objectivity, the factor is to get in tune with what the persons need, youllsee the pattern step by step move within the other direction. And i dont believe its healthy. Ben Wattenberg: Is it simply what the peoplewant or what the journalists want? Jodie Allen: well, see, theres the dangerousthing.We make a decision, you realize, what query to askthe people. I feel, you recognize, if you get that mind-set,the chance is invariably there anyway, and when you feed it, it will get worse. Ben Wattenberg: correct, and if youre a suspiciousnon-liberal, like your moderator, I mean, and you seem at these polls, pronouncing, well,most of these journalists are swinging from the liberal aspect of the plate, is thatnot grounds for being suspicious of this? Jodie Allen: Oh, yeah. Ben Wattenberg: good. Thanks all. Thanks, Jane Eisner, Jodie Allen, JamesFishkin, and Steve Cuozzo. And thanks. We revel in listening to from our viewers. That you would be able to ship your questions and comments toNew River Media, 1150 seventeenth avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036. For consider Tank, Im Ben Wattenberg. Announcer: This has been a creation of BJWInc., in organization with New River Media, which are exclusively liable for its content..