The death of Walter Cronkite has inspired me to do a follow-up to “The clean energy revolution will not be televised as big media beat it and even Farrah’s death gets bigger play.”
I wonder how Cronkite would have covered the death of Michael Jackson. Somehow I suspect he wouldn’t have waited until the end of the CBS Evening News to say, as Katie Couric did:
Michael Jackson’s sudden death and the mystery surrounding it captivated the world, or much of it, eclipsing other news. Jeff Glor now tells us some of the stories that happened in the last two weeks that are definitely worth noting.
That clip was actually used as an opening segment for an examination of the media’s coverage of Jackson’s death by PBS’s Newshour (video and transcript here). This PBS story is noteworthy because of the remarks by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Jamieson launched into an extended critique of the media’s non-coverage of the climate bill, which is all the more remarkable because it reveals that, unlike the overwhelming majority of media pundits, she follows the issue closely — no doubt because she recognizes its seminal importance to the American public:
There’s a role for the coverage. I’m not suggesting that Michael Jackson’s death and his legacy aren’t newsworthy. But, rather, the question is one of proportion.
When you look at news and what you see is that the accountability function was missing on climate change, we didn’t get good stories that asked, how much of the House bill actually captured what candidate Obama had promised?
There weren’t the news stories in many places that let the process ask the question, will this legislation do what it promises? Is a 17 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 over a 2005 base actually going to address this serious problem of global warming?
We also didn’t have the fact-testing. The costs per household of this legislation are widely different across various partisan sources. And as a result, news didn’t perform the functions it needs to perform to keep the political process honest and accountable.
And when that happens, advertising becomes the means by which the public learns about this legislation. That’s partisan and one-sided. Special interests, influence, and money gain impact.
And, finally, the public loses the connection between campaigning and governance. Candidate Obama promised climate change legislation. He’s trying to deliver. When the public doesn’t realize candidates try and often as presidents to deliver on their promises, they become more cynical about governance.
In other words, when news is distracted and doesn’t do its job because it doesn’t keep things in proportion, democracy isn’t as well-served as it needs to be.
- Must-read study: How the press bungles its coverage of climate economics “” “The media’s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress.”