In a new article from the Washington Post, media columnist Margaret Sullivan penned an insightful tidbit to her fellow reporters entitled, “Wall-to-wall impeachment coverage is not changing any minds. Here’s how journalists can reach the undecided.”
Got that? “How journalists can reach the undecided.”
Not, “How journalists can provide fair coverage.”
Not, “How journalists can overcome their own personal biases and report straight facts.”
No, Sullivan believes it’s journalists’ job to “reach the undecided.”
Now, reach them with what, exactly? It doesn’t take reading very far in Sullivan’s article to figure that out. She pointedly asks early in her piece whether “media coverage is pointless” and “journalists merely shouting into the void” by covering the Trump impeachment hearings, lamenting that “Americans’ positions seem to have hardened on whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.”
To fix this apparent conundrum in which reporters are failing to change hearts and minds – because that’s their new job heading into 2020 – can be resolved, Sullivan postulates, by targeting one small segment of Republican undecideds.
Note: Republican undecideds. Sullivan writes:
A paradox arises herein, and a weird one, at that. There’s a group the trackers call “less-certain Republicans” — about 12 percent of the sample, not huge but given the even split in support for impeachment, mighty important.
Here’s the rub: This group is persuadable, but not particularly interested.
“Rather than providing a catering service for the echo chambers, how might journalism address this important group?” Sullivan asks.
Persuadable to what, exactly? Well, to countering what Sullivan sees as "the long-term Republican strategy: “epistemological nihilism.” Which, as she defines it, is a fancy way of saying they're making up the facts, and it's journalists' job to counter the Trump administration's narrative, and "persuade" people -- voters -- against it.
And how to do that exactly? Why, by using sound bites clipped quickly from congressional hearings and thrown into a “move trailer approach” – i.e., stripped down to a talking point, void of any contextual information, and often dismissive of any counterpoints made by Republic—er, the other side.
In concentrating on boiling everything down to these easy, three-second clips, Sullivan openly suggests that journalists stop worrying about keeping from being seen as “partisan.”
With that in mind, I would also very much like to see one other major change: a moratorium on the reflexive use of the word “partisan.”
…here’s the thing: There are facts. There is truth. We do live in a country that abides by laws and a Constitution, and nobody ought to be above them.
“Despite the hardened positions, some members of the public are still uncertain. Some are persuadable, and yes, it matters. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the job of American journalism in this moment to get serious about trying to reach these citizens,” she concludes.
Of course, to many of us this isn’t new. Sullivan is in many ways simply encouraging the propaganda machine to do exactly what they’ve been doing: to feeding the American public what they want you to hear and assuming you’ll never dig deep enough to learn what they’ve omitted, twisted, or lied about.
But for what it’s worth, at least now they’re admitting it.