Friday, March 18, 2016


How can members of Congress get away with not talking to reporters?   Simple.  Reporters don't talk to them, at least not the ones who matter.

As Tip O'Neill pointed out years ago, all politics is local.

What happens at the local level, where the member's voters live?   Nothing.  Local TV news operations question them about NOTHING. Local TV news operations don't question them about climate change or student debt or international trade or military expenditures or even the magnificent wall Donald Trump wants to build.  

Students in my computer-assisted reporting class contacted every single member of the Ohio Congressional delegation to get the member's position on climate change.  They also requested a 5-minute videoskype interview with either the member or the member's press aide to discuss the member's position on climate change.  

Click right here and watch what the students discovered.  

What's germane here is the second part of the students' assignment.  The student journalists also had to call the local commercial television stations to find out if their news departments had questioned their members of Congress about climate change.
Navy Veteran Christopher Freeman Calls Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson's Office Trying to Get the Congressman's Position on Climate Change.   Congressman Johnson Would Not Provide It.
Student reporters discovered not a single commercial TV newsroom in Ohio had questioned its members about climate change.

Local news no longer holds members of Congress accountable.   So when politicians get called from national reporters, they can ignore them.   Your members of Congress can refuse to comment because all politics is local.  And local TV news reporters aren't holding them accountable.

The question is why?   If a local TV station wants to improve ratings, one way to do that is to hold their members of Congress accountable, not ignore them.

Perhaps I'm wrong; maybe my student journalists missed something (I doubt it).  If so, I apologize and ask you to send the URL from the TV station where the Senator is being questioned about climate change or about whether the Senate should hold hearings and vote on the current Supreme Court nominee or about any other issue of importance.  

One great thing about technology is it saves money.   The local TV reporter in Cincinnati or Columbus or Toledo or Cleveland or Youngstown or Dayton doesn't have to fly to D.C. to do a video interview.   That can be done via videoSkype for no cost.    Right now, the only cost we have is the incredible cost to democracy because local reporters aren't holding members of Congress accountable.   Had reporters done their job, Donald Trump wouldn't even be a consideration for the nomination of president.   But then, if reporters had done their job, there never would have been a war in Iraq either.  There was no imminent threat, and we knew that.  At least reporters from the McClatchy group got that on right.   

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


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