“Not the odds, but the stakes.”
Simple, straightforward and, because “Horse Race” is what the new LOVES to talk about during elections and especially Presidential elections a devastating indictment that someone needs to be promoting it. However, according to an article from CNN that’s exactly what a professor of journalism Jay Rosen of New York University has been doing in recent months. Imploring those who deliver the news to cut back on the “horse race” stuff and do the tougher but essential work of explaining what’s at stake next year. In an interview with the author of the CNN story Rosen explained “The stakes, of course, mean the stakes for American democracy. The stakes are what might happen as a result of the election.”
Remember, back in 2020 then candidate Biden kept saying the election was a battle “for the soul of our nation”, something that was also true in 2016 but the news way way more interested in the ratings and resulting ad revenue the Trump circus was getting them. They didn’t want to cover issues then, but rather the horse race. The same was true in 2020 but unlike Hillary Clinton who the GOP spent so many years and dollars on dirtying up her image that didn’t stick with Biden. His “Uncle Joe” personae was genuine and voters could sense that so when HE talked about “stakes” people listened. And voted Trump’s fat orange a$$ out “bigly” time.
However, “horse race” means the news biz gets to promote “conflict” which sells more easily. And the “talent”, those folks on TV be they hosts, consulting pundits or famous print journalists who regularly appear would much rather do easy stuff like talk horse race and “shiny objects” like this or that tweet/Truth Social WTF? – he said what? post than really dig into, day after day the actual issues. And more importantly the consequences.
Nope, a little lip service to that stuff and back to the horse race. Rosen says, accurately from where I sit that journalism has things ass-backwards. He says it’s an easy way to make things “come alive” audiences. He even concedes there is some place for it however:
That’s not to say all coverage of polling and political strategy is misguided, Rosen stressed. Simply, it should not be the primary focus for news organizations, given what is on the line come next November.
“I don’t mean to say that news of the horse race is some sort of sin or poison that has dot be driven from the news,” Rosen told me. “Rather, that the horse race should not be the model for how you design your coverage. It should not be the organizing principle of your campaign coverage.”
The article states that going into 2024 the situation is even more dire than usual. That these are not normal times (well DUH!) and it’s more important than ever for the public to be properly informed. To me (and clearly professor Rosen and the author of the linked article) THAT means day after day, week after week spending less time talking about polls and horse race crap and more (way more) talking about how things actually are, and the consequences of what they will be if a repeatedly bankrupt, twice impeached, two/three time (when all is said and done) civil trial loser and indicted on felonies in FOUR different jurisdictions Donald Trump is re-elected. Not to mention Trump’s openly stating the fascist actions he will take starting on day one.
I hope one of our sometimes viewers from Lincoln Project sees this and runs with it. Or they, and Meidas Touch Network too pick up on it somehow. As for the rest of us perhaps we can start contacting “talent” (they have people to monitor their social media and let them know if something is trending) and pointedly quote Professor Rosen. And ask them WHY they aren’t following his recommendation, every single day. Ask them why they are taking the easy way out, whether for laziness or fear of Trump/MAGA teeing off on them and calling them biased. You’d think that after DECADES of being attacked by conservatives for being biased (the truth and accurate reporting after all highlights how awful conservatives are) that NO amount of pulling punches and softballing coverage will change that.
As I like to say, when you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t you might as well DO. Especially when it’s so clearly the right thing to do!
But we need to help Professor Rosen spread his six word mantra. Please come up with/promote ideas beyond my initial thought expressed earlier. It’s so simple. Hell, it’s short and simple enough to fit on a bumper sticker. Or even a lapel button! I’d perhaps add two words, to make it read:
“Hey Journalists: Not the odds, but the STAKES!”