The Press and Politics

By Brown, J. M. | The Quill, November 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

The Press and Politics


Brown, J. M., The Quill


In a heated forum that would have been a dream for any Sunday morning talk show, arm-chair Washington observer, top political correspondents and a media critic hashed out their predictions for election 2000 and gave an analysis of how today's news media cover changing government.

Ken Bode, dean of the Medill School of journalism at Northwestern University and former host of Washington Week in Review on PBS, moderated the panel of Washington watchdogs who pontificated on the role of the press in the political world.

The feisty clan bantered back and forth on when private information should stay private and why a press that the American public often sees as disrespectful and intrusive is also so influential. Nearly 400 people - some attendees of SPJ's national convention and some from the general public -- attended the evening discussion on Oct. 4. The program was sponsored by SPJ's Project Watchdog.

Sitting on the panel with Bode were Mary Beth Schneider, political reporter for The Indianapolis Star; Ceci Connolly, political reporter for The Washington Post; Sam Fulwood III, correspondent for the Washington bureau of The Los Angeles Times; Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism; Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; and Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for Newsweek magazine. Mara Liasson, White House correspondent for National Public Radio, also was scheduled to appear but was absent.

Panelists argued that for the last decade, political reporting has been driven by coverage of candidates' sex lives - a trend that resurfaced again recently in President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Rosenstiel said it's difficult for the press to cover all the candidates when political parties emerge from their "smoke-filled rooms" and eliminate voters' options by presetting the races - the public, he said, feels disconnected from the entire political process. …

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