The Anger Journalists Never Fully Understood

Bettinger, Jim
December 2003
Nieman Reports;Winter2003, Vol. 57 Issue 4, p50
The article contends that political reporters risk becoming irrelevant to a political process that may be undergoing fundamental change, in line with the 2003 governor recall elections in California. For those who want to see journalism be a major force in democratic society and not just a constitutionally protected license to make money, significant challenges lie ahead. In print and in conversation, the chances of the recall getting on the ballot were minimized. This gave an early hint that reporters might not be on top or a story that was happening outside tradition political bounds. One area where some very hard thinking is necessary is the degree to which established journalism really savors and relies on the established political process, when much of the public is sick of it. In long campaigns, political journalists participate in the vetting. In a foreshortened campaign like the recall, name recognition and celebrity matter more and the press matters less. There is a hint that reporters might not be on top of a story that was happening outside traditional political bounds. Then, once the recall was a reality, serious journalistic outlets committed themselves to serious coverage of the campaign and election.


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