Journalism Takes a Back Seat in the US Elections

Darron Birgenheier - The Unblinking Eye (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Aidan White

There is depressing, but not unexpected news from the United States where a report this week from the influential Pew Research Center says that the current Presidential election campaign is more negative than ever.

Worryingly, in its comparative analysis of this and the last three election campaigns, the report concludes that journalism has become less important as a professional filtering process for campaign rhetoric.

The news across all media platforms is dominated by the public relations machines of Republican and Democratic parties.

“The American news media in its coverage of the candidates appears increasingly to be a conduit of partisan rhetoric and less a source than it once was of independent reporting,” says Tom Rosenstiel, Director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Shrinking newsrooms may be to blame, but there is a loss of professionalism here that must be particularly painful to Rosentiel who ten years ago wrote in The Elements of Journalism, his ground-breaking book with Bill Kovach, that the essence of journalism is a discipline of verification which separates news reporting from propaganda.

Elsewhere, the report is full of unsurprising material, such as that Fox News is profoundly anti-Obama and, with numbers that provide an almost perfect mirror, MSNBC news is equally anti-Romney. Nevertheless, there is one bright finding for the beleaguered press corps: the most balanced of all news media, including on-line media, are newspapers.


Photo Credit: Darron Birgenheier – The Unblinking Eye (CC BY-SA 2.0)