Watching Newsweek's Eleanor Clift confront the question "Are most political reporters simply insiders?" is a discomfiting experience. Her struggle to defend the indefensible unavoidably inspires compassion for her uneasy predicament. But the case she makes so proves the point that any sympathy engendered morphs quickly into cynicism.
The political reporter appeared on a Dec. 29, 2011, panel discussion on Al Jazeera, subtitled the question du jour. Joining her were Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson, of whose candidacy Clift knew nothing. Al Jazeera devoted a third of the half-hour program's opinions to the former Salt Lake City mayor. Clift apparently had never heard of him.
"I think Rocky Anderson is running probably to get his issues out there, more than from an expectation that he might necessarily win," she awkwardly speculated aloud, unsure about the Justice Party's name, no less.
The news media is full of it these days. The Republican presidential primaries, that is. But thanks to the short attention span of most news organizations, by the time you read this, the New Hampshire primary will be a distant memory, the Iowa caucuses ancient history. So it’s on to South Carolina, for yet another show business extravaganza masquerading as democratic politics.
A bottomless schedule of television debates interrupted only by an endless stream of spin and speculation ought to satisfy even the most avid political junkie. It’s news workers themselves who can’t get enough of this stuff. At times, it seems the entire U.S. press corps is suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
"The Protester" is Time magazine's person of the year. Featuring a fierce-looking, veiled figure peering back at the reader, Time's front-cover image succinctly captures the uprisings and social upheavals that made history in 2011. As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words."
Nonetheless, we shouldn't forget the slogans, catchphrases and epithets that made headlines this year. After all, whatever comes of the Occupy movement, the mantra of the politically and economically disenfranchised - "We are the 99%" - has dramatically altered American political discourse as we plunge headlong into the 2012 presidential race.
Scandal, gridlock, high crimes and misdemeanors. In this season of journalistic outrage, political stalemate and record-shattering heat waves, it’s tough to keep your cool. Tougher still if you are in the hot seat – unless of course you’re fortunate enough to occupy a position of power and authority. In which case, you might just as well settle in for a bit of kabuki theater and go about your business.
Seems the more precarious vital social, political and economic institutions become, the less accountable they are to the general public. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In any event, if you’re scoring at home, here’s the latest accountability index.
I don’t Tweet. And I don’t plan to open a Twitter account anytime soon. The phrase “when hell freezes over” comes to mind.
Nevertheless, when President Barack Obama hosted a Twitter Town Hall this past week, I’ll admit I was a little curious. The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” comes to mind.
There’s plenty of news these days -- gas prices are down, the Republican presidential field is shaping up, and U.S. troops will soon be leaving Afghanistan. But despite all the political and media spin to the contrary, there’s not much good news in any of this.
While we can all breathe a little easier now that Anthony Weiner has lost his texting privileges, every silver lining has a dark cloud. Here are a few stories behind the news stories making headlines this summer.
Change is in the air. Some of this is welcome change: the grassroots democracy movement across the Middle East and North Africa comes to mind. As does the worker uprising in Madison, Wis., and cities and towns across these United States.
More often than not, however, this change has been catastrophic. Weather-related disasters of historic proportions are wreaking havoc on the people and the land across the American South. Overseas, the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to threaten public health and safety in northeast Japan and beyond.
Maybe it’s all the yard signs that have sprouted up in Bloomington these past few weeks. Perhaps it’s the news media’s incessant handicapping of potential candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Or it could be the tsunami of unsolicited mail Democratic Party operatives have unleashed lately. In any case, it’s clear that campaign season has sprung up like so many dandelions after a thundershower.
In the past week alone, I’ve received bulk e-mail from political strategist and Clinton acolyte James Carville, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org.
After an involuntary hiatus, it's always invigorating to re-engage with the "real work" (Beat poet Gary Snyder's words), especially when the initial reconnect is celebratory in nature. Especially when the celebration involves an institution at the heart of the mission, in this case journalism.
And so, with a bow to journalist Robert MacNeil, I begin this summer's phase of my investigation into the twin epidemics of autism and developmental disabilities. His investigative report Autism Now, which aired on the PBS NewsHour in April, reacquainted me with the issues I'm exploring in the Ohio River Valley, where the rain is toxic and data show the kids just aren't quite right, developmentally speaking. Three years' into this project, I've not found a more honest or enlightened media report.
“Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions, and give ground on issues that were important to them, and I certainly did that.” -- Barack Obama, April 8, 2011.
Last weekend, Republicans and Democrats squared off in a budget showdown of historic proportions. Fortunately for thousands of federal employees who might not get their paychecks, or countless tourists who would be denied access to national parks and museums, cooler heads prevailed. At the 11th hour both parties reached a hard-fought consensus that narrowly averted a government shutdown.