Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Rove on Campus

Karl Rove gave a speech recently at a liberal arts college about the role of journalism and the media. I don’t know what came over him, but he actually made a compelling argument. He didn’t do the expected, which is to attack the media as having a liberal bias. Instead he described the media as oppositionist and more willing to cover the horse race rather than content driven news stories. This isn’t an entirely new argument. Thomas Patterson, a political science professor at Syracuse University, made a similar argument in his book Out of Order. He found that most news stories about political races were more negative than positive (and this held true for both parties). His argument wasn't new when he first made it either, but his book backs up the argument with strong analysis. That journalists prefer to cover the race or scandal has been true for quite a while, and some say it is getting worse. Whether it started after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke open the Watergate scandal leading every reporter that followed to use them as their role model and watchdog journalism as their style, or if it is a consequence of intense competition among a media market saturated with 24 hour news, it still needs to be fixed. Journalists have a responsibility to be informed and objective and to provide important information to the public. And showing a new poll every night of which candidate is in the lead is not important information unless it is followed or preceded by their positions on the issues.

Rove makes another really good argument, but it is more than a little hypocritical coming from him; and the Washington Post didn’t hesitate to point that out. I’ll let the Post article speak for itself:

Similarly, Rove attested that "most people I know on both sides of the aisle actually believe in the positions they take," and he proposed a rule: "Unless you have clear evidence to the contrary, commentators should answer arguments instead of impugning the motives of those with whom they disagree." But he did not square that with a White House that routinely challenges the motives of those who question Bush, calling them "partisan" and "petty."