Tim Russert and the Decline of Journalism

The passing of Tim Russert is a sad event in American Government. The media’s job is to challenge politicians on their words. No one does that better then Tim Russert. In fact, few do what Russert did. We are entering a dangerous age of journalism, and therefore, politics and government.

The pace of media has quickened. I am in radio, so you’d think that all I’d need to do is confer with sources and read as much as possible to prepare for the show. But as we enter this age, I need to write blogs, post podcasts, record and edit video. They all have to be different, and the content needs to be fresh. All of this takes time. It takes time to create, organize and promote YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook pages. It takes time to map things out, write out bits, record and edit them. The uploading takes forever.  But it all is necessary because other news outlets do it. You have to compete to remain relevant.

There are less people to do these things, because the media business sucks. A reporter, radio personality, or TV producer has more and more to do. As a result of all of this, the more time a media person spends on the content delivery, the more watered down the content becomes.  The pay is shrinking, so the quality of person behind the reports is lessened.

Today’s media will have less time to prepare for interviews. There are fewer reporters with less time to ask hard questions.

Because of the large amount of work to do, and the amount of information to process, many members of the media choose the angle of the story based on their conversations with the other members of the media, not the subject of the story. That is why you hear the same story angle in almost every major media’s (TV, Newspaper, Radio) report. The reporters all fish for a good sound bite. Some members of the local media don’t like that Abdul and I play the entire press conference. Guess Why? It exposes the lack of tough questions, and shows the fishing they do.

The subject (Politician, Movie Star, Sports Figure) are happy to oblige because they want to get on with their life. They don‘t need to prepare for any sort of tough question, because the reporters will all ask the same thing. They just need different versions of the sound bite. If they flip-flop, who cares! The reporters won’t notice, and the listener/reader/viewer is too busy to care.

So you turn to blogs and other forms of “new media” for a different point of view. They are advocates for their cause, and tailor their information to the message.

In fact, Advocacy Journalism will start to dominate the old media because it’s different. There is something that resembles humanity in their reporting. It doesn’t insult the listener/reader/viewer’s intelligence.

I’ll let you comment on the end result of all of this. (Actually, aren’t we seeing it? Isn’t our government dramatically failing us?)

Tim Russert was loved because he was a human being. He didn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence. He was prepared. He was everything a journalist should be, and something modern media should aspire to be.

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Chris Spangle is the publisher and editor of We Are Libertarians, a news site and podcast that covers national and Indiana politics from the libertarian perspective. Spangle previously worked in marketing for the Englehart Group on behalf of the Advocates for Self-Government. He also served as the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Indiana and producer of the Abdul in the Morning Show. He now works as the web director of a nationally syndicated morning show.

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