Whenever civic life become divisive, news media have a special responsibility to stay cool-headed, to stand back from the fray and political posturing. News media should give citizens what they desperately need: an accessible and impartial analysis of not just the facts but also of the problem.
The current protest at our state legislature is a case in point.
As I scan media, I get much heat and argument; much emotion. I get an overwhelming amount of opinion and dueling media columnists. Lots of pictures of people carrying signs and a daily counting (or mis-counting?) of the size of the crowd. That is part of the story. But only part of it.
What I don’t see enough of are large, well-researched articles and TV programs analyzing in detail the budget problems, and citing crucial facts that place the problem in national context. I don’t see enough fact-checking journalism into claims by all sides. What is also missing is a cogent and easily understandable presentation of alternate budget-reducing options, drawn up by people without partisan connections.
Here is one moment when public “solutions” journalism, as it is called, could play a role in the public debate.