The benefit of Capitol coverage

We need newspapers to keep their eyes on our public servants.


You might surmise from my last post (Too much of a good thing, II) that I think our national leaders need only be covered by a few journalists, to avoid cluttering up the internet with similar reports on identical topics.

Au contraire. One of the benefits, in fact, of the traditional newspaper model as it worked in the past was that even dailies from midsize cities could afford to post a reporter in our nation’s capital to cover the state congressional delegation.

A state’s senators and representatives work a long way from home. A full-time reporter working the Capitol Hill beat can keep an eye on them, sending back stories explaining what they’re up to and why.

However. We’ve been seriously slogging away at the topic of saving the news business for two months. Shall we take a break?

Oh, let’s. I invite you, gentle reader, to divert your attention to the C-SPAN video of President Obama’s speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, held on April 30.

It’s a hoot.

My favorite joke begins just after minute 11:30, when the president thanks the “award-winning reporters” present — the stars of the movie “Spotlight” — and then goes on to say he’s just joshing the crowd:

“… As you know ‘Spotlight’ is a film, a movie, about investigative journalists with the resources and the autonomy to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable.

“Best fantasy film since ‘Star Wars’. …” —President Barack Obama

At the end of his speech, the president turns serious, acknowledging the differences he and the press corps have had.

“… But we’ve always shared the same goal, to root our public discourse in the truth. To open the doors of this democracy. To do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just, and I’ve always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals. …

“… At home and abroad journalists … engage in the dogged pursuit of informing citizens and holding leaders accountable and making our government of the people possible. And it’s an enormous responsibility. And I realize it’s an enormous challenge at a time when the economics of the business sometimes incentivize speed over depth and when controversy and conflict are what most immediately attract readers and viewers.

“The good news is there are so many of you that are pushing against those trends. And as a citizen of this great democracy, I am grateful for that. …” —President Barack Obama

Author: TAM

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