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The view from there: journalism from a policy perspective

This fall, I am getting the chance to peer in at journalism from outside the newsroom walls. There is no media theory or philosophy of journalism in a public policy class. No distinction between mass media and independent community media. Heck, there’s no distinction between “media” and “journalism.”

Here, framing is about how to structure a policy issue to attract the attention of reporters. Reporters are myopic servants of single-issue beats who simplify messages to fit the format of their media. Media are no more than businesses that lead with what bleeds and profit from conflict. And conflict is the enemy of compromise. Yet compromise is what solutions are made of.

In other words, the media, while essential, are also an intractable obstacle to constructive policy solutions.

Ouch.

I think one criticism, in particular, misses its mark at the same time it points to the greatest potential for journalism’s future.

Specifically, yes or no?

It’s hard to prepare for the artful dodge of politicians, I suppose, with anything other than practice. I’m hopeful that the experience of being a panelist at the Missouri Press Association’s gubernatorial forum last Friday, combined with my current studies of public policy, will prepare me to craft questions that require more specific responses than I got last week.

I think the format presented part of the challenge to specificity. At first, I confess, I was relieved that there would be no time for follow-up questions. That took a bit of pressure off, as I was nervous to “perform” so publicly. By the end, I decided I would have preferred the risk.

Dispatches from Boot Camp

Boot camp is not for sissies.

This I know, so I am cautioning myself to not get cocky or lulled into a false sense of confidence based on the slow starting pace of this week’s computer-assisted reporting boot camp.

This is the second “boot camp” of sorts I have signed up for in my life, the first being a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation back in 1999. At the time, I not-so-fondly called it Boot Camp for Buddhists.

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