The Media's Role in America's Political Divide

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

From television, to talk radio, to the newsstands, Americans are inundated with news about the sorry state of politics. But are the media merely covering the story of D.C.'s gridlock, or are they creating it? For the second installment of our series, "Frustration Nation," we examine the role of the media and its impact on the political divisiveness in America and Washington, D.C., today.

We speak to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, along with Michael Kinsley, founder of Slate magazine and former co-host of the TV show, "Crossfire." They explore how the media provides both a service and a disservice in the drive for splashy headlines, the 24-hour political coverage.

Guests:

Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Michael Kinsley

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja

Comments [15]

Akuna

Inspiring quest there. What happened after? Take care!

Mar. 07 2013 01:53 PM
Charles

Jackie, let's see if we can quickly count the number of ways that you are wrong.

First, we had the deadlock in the House over abortion-funding language. The House, as you know, has no cloture-vote requirement. A simple majority wins. But even the Democrats, as the majority party, could not muster the votes because a couple of dozen pro-life Democrat moderates would not budge on their objection to the abortion funding proposals.

In the Senate, the Democrats had the numbers, on paper, to beat a filibuster with a supermajority. But again moderates did not like the bill their own party was foisting on them. So we had one spectacle after another, of Senators being handed special deals for their own states. Landrieu of Lousiana. Nelson of Nabraska. Florida, Vermont and Connecticut all got home-state deals in the Senate bill. The public was mostly offended.

And yet even then the Senate Democrats' bill didn't meet the House Democrats' bill. Now, Michigan moderate (D) Bart Stupak is saying he is not voting for the latest Obama bill, and will bring others with him.

And this all indicates Republican opposition... How?

Remember, the Republican minority in Congress isn't an "unelected minority." It is an "elected minority."

Feb. 23 2010 04:58 PM
Jackie Leonard from Forest Hills, NY

The media are responsible in that they haven't explained to an angry public that it is the Senate filibuster and minority rule that have snarled ANY legislative progress. If people understood that the unelected minority is blocking the passage of everything Obama was elected to enact, that they are determined that he should fail, they would stop bewailing gridlock as though it was the fault of the entire Congress.

Feb. 23 2010 04:44 PM
Charles

I question The Takeaway's entire premise with this wee-long series. Is there "gridlock" in Washington? Or is there a hard and bitter debate about an overwhelmingly huge new federal health-care sepnding bill? Should there be resistance, and debate, when one party (the Democrats) is talking about a substantial government takeover of perhaps as much as one-sixth of the U.S. economy?

I suspect that the hidden agenda with this series on The Takeaway, is to leave listeners with the subliminal message that if there is no passage of the Obamacare bill, then Washington is guilty of a kind of institutional pathology.

For The Takeaway, the cure for gridlock equals the legislative passage of Obamacare. I sincerely hope that is not the case.

Feb. 23 2010 11:54 AM
Nancy L.

Absolutely, the media bears huge responsibility, both by what they dwell on and what they do not report. Having Michael kinsley as the expert points to that. One ex of omission: in 24/7 coverage, no coverage of who the lobbyists are in, say, the healthcare debate. That's just one small ex. There's also lack of courage reporting about some real victims in the world.
Thanks for broaching the topic.

Feb. 23 2010 11:50 AM

The profit motive in news can shape the way it's reported. That is always going to be a problem.

Feb. 23 2010 11:26 AM
Bfuzze from Columbia, MD

I fall on the Dem side, but I think they're all acting like petulent children. Lets reinstitute the 'vote of no confidence' for our reps and senators and see if they don't make some headway. I am fortunate enough to have a job and have to justify my value once a year at my annual review. Our reps should have to do the same, prove to us that they are sticking to their platforms and representing their constituents ideals.

Feb. 23 2010 10:42 AM
Asad from Ft. Lauderdale, FL

The media is at fault for the most pervasive part of this situation - public opinion. Most people get their news from TV/radio, which also shapes their opinions on the issues. When the media highlights the debate in an exaggerated manner, which draws viewers/ratings and higher ad revenue, the end result is that public opinion starts to take on this exaggerated view. Thus the overwhelming perception that government is broken, or of frustration. That there is disagreement and debate in Washington is nothing new - it dates back as far (if not earlier) than the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Add to this the polarizing nature of the punditry, which is given a blank slate to carve their extreme opinions on, and the public becomes even more polarized.

That's why I watch Jon Stewart more than Brian Williams - I recognize the satirical nature of The Daily Show and enjoy being able to laugh at the issue and the media coverage.

Feb. 23 2010 09:35 AM
Neil W from Columbia, SC

The media has a to take some of the blame for this. There is almost no distinction between opinion and hard news, pundits have become "experts", and people with real expertise are rarely featured. You can easily find "experts" from think tanks that espouse and advance a particluar point of view with the final result being nothing but muddying the waters. Add to this mix the drive for ratings has become the primary focus of TV news and "pandering journalism" is now the norm to attract viewers who want news that tells them what they want to hear and you end up with mess we are in.

Feb. 23 2010 09:30 AM
CedricM from Miami

Earlier a guest said that blaming the Media for gridlock is like blaming the dog for a marriage/family breaking apart.

That is a weak analogy, it is more like the following... Blaming the Media for gridlock is like blaming the vindicitive mother-in-law who tries to pass unverified claims as facts and proftes from the strife by selling addspace on her blog.

Now, of course we cannot blame her completely, but she did not help the situation either.

Likewise, I do not blame the Media for all our woes... but Media DOES have its part to play, and it should know better. People are obviously influenced by what the media says, especially on a polarizing topic. When the media sensationalized one singe item for five days, or tries to break a story too fast and reports the wrong information, this influences emotions and how people react to each other. People are politics.

Are you seriously going to try to convince us that such a multibillion dollar industry wich pumps most of the information we recieve into all our devices and comands the attention of the most powerful people really does not have that much influence. Come on.

To even SUGGEST that the media has little influence in how politics plays out is downright irrisposible.

Now - we cannot blame all of it on you, but you are a player and a member of the family... start helping out.

Feb. 23 2010 09:26 AM
CedricM from Miami

Earlier a guest said that blaming the Media for gridlock is like blaming the dog for a marriage/family breaking apart.

That is a weak analogy, it is more like the following... Blaming the Media for gridlock is like blaming the vindicitive mother-in-law who tries to pass unverified claims as facts and proftes from the strife by selling addspace on her blog.

Now, of course we cannot blame her completely, but she did not help the situation either.

Likewise, I do not blame the Media for all our woes... but Media DOES have its part to play, and it should know better. People are obviously influenced by what the media says, especially on a polarizing topic. When the media sensationalized one singe item for five days, or tries to break a story too fast and reports the wrong information, this influences emotions and how people react to each other. People are politics.

Are you seriously going to try to convince us that such a multibillion dollar industry wich pumps most of the information we recieve into all our devices and comands the attention of the most powerful people really does not have that much influence. Come on.

To even SUGGEST that the media has little influence in how politics plays out is downright irrisposible.

Now - we cannot blame all of it on you, but you are a player and a member of the family... start helping out.

Feb. 23 2010 09:26 AM
David

There are things like FactCheck.org that are providing a good balance and helping some of the gridlock.

HOWEVER, when almost all of Fox's political commentators are speakers at CPAC, how can they NOT add to the problems? Unfortunately, too many people think that Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etal are a good source of news.

Many of the Public Radio material also provides a lot of balance.

Feb. 23 2010 09:20 AM
D from New England

Basically, the news channels are only interested in you not changing the channel. Thus they are saying, showing sound bites and making baseless declarations to evoke emotion/outrage. There is no "fixing it" because it is a business driven by greed. Your average Joe Public sitting in diner in the Midwest will not go the internet and check facts. Your average educated urbanite NPR listener (which is the minority) are the only ones who care enough to think critically about what they hear or see.

Feb. 23 2010 09:16 AM
Osei Xavier from Ft. Lauderdale

When Media sources became more about ratings and less about accurate, responsible,and trustworthy reporting then the answer is yes. Media now spends more time on a scandals than it does on what is really going on. Surface reporting, and not the in depth quality sources that it was built on. Basically who cares about Tiger Woods, I'm more worried about the nation we're going to leave to our children.

Feb. 23 2010 09:12 AM
gary hodgkin from Seattle WA

Frustration nation...Don't let the smoke and mirrors from misinformation sources like Fox "News" wear you down. The real problem with gridlock in the government is caused by multi national corporations circumventing the US system. The freedoms GWB talked about others hating are the very freedoms these corporations take through agencies like the WTO, IMF, World Bank. GATT and NAFTA are the "legal" contracts the faceless powers use to sell the middle class of the the US out with. Thanks Ronnie Rayguns, George Bush I & II and Bill Clinton for turning the US into a third world country. The battle between the Dems and Repubs is just small potatoes. Look beyond the infotainment they call "NEWS".

Feb. 23 2010 04:08 AM

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