I’m not a big fan of lobbying. I think it’s pretty much buying influence and votes from our elected representatives. And here is a rather interesting piece on lobbying that sheds a little bit different light on the matter. More than simply presenting lobbying as a pay for play scheme, this piece suggests that it runs deeper than that, with personal relationships between lobbyists and congressional staffers affecting the actual decision making. Where this relates to journalism, however, is in the writer’s implications that the media have never delved deeply into the process of lobbying, presenting it as a strictly monetary relationship, quoting numbers but presenting no context. Essentially, the press has dropped the ball and taken the simplest route.
And here’s another telling tale of the state of the press, constantly pointless polling. What value can their possibly be in something like this? Yet the press and the government itself use these numbers to justify all sorts of things. How do the people want you to pay for health care? Tax the rich! Absolutely. Look at the numbers, people were good with the idea so long as everyone but themselves got stuck with a higher bill. Sure, tax the rich, tax the drug companies, tax the insurance companies, tax the corporations, just so long as it’s not me. Did they expect anything else when they asked the question? The sad part is that health care reform supporters will be shouting these results from the halls of congress; “Look, see, the people want us to soak the rich to pay for this!” What possible value can there be in out-of context questions of a random sampling of people who may or may not know anything at all about the specifics of the debate? This kind of stuff is lazy and destructive.
It’s a popular trend today for those who are trying to “save” newspapers by spouting off about watchdog journalism and bemoaning the loss of actual invesitigative work that holds people in power responsible for their actions. Without newspapers, we’re told, this essential service to democracy will wither and die, leaving us all the worse for it. Well, excuse me if I find these arguements somewhat disingenuous and self-serving. Newspapaers on the whole, have largely abdicated this role a long time ago, as profit margins based on advertising grew to garagntuan proportions. In this day and age, very rarely do we see serious, legitimate investigative reporting, unless of course, we’re trying to sniff out the balloon boy hoax, or whether Brad Pitt has changed from boxers to briefs.
Accountability journalism of people in real power is all but dead in most quarters of the press, sadly, at a time when we need it most. The death of newspapers will have no impact on this one way or the other. They started to kill it off long ago, in favor of polling and easy-does-it stories that take the simplest route from point A to point B, without offending anyone who might affect the bottom line, of course. I’ll believe that newspapers are worth saving when the press starts to turn that accountability on themselves. When they start asking difficult questions and actually following up, when they stop asking loaded poll questions of random folks and presenting that as some sort of gospel truth, and, most of all, when they actually show a renewed desire to make the people in power uncomfortable again. That’s the press we need right now.
You want to save newspapers? Then do something useful again.