Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Sad Lack of Reporting about Our Congressmen

Morgan Griffith: Why is this man smiling?
Good community reporting is a niche that could well keep some newspapers alive. Television news organizations seem to have understood that years ago and although their philosophy still tends to lean toward the traditional "if it bleeds, it leads," there is at least some awareness of local interests to serve.

One of the major areas where our local print media--the ones that cover live news, not so much the niche pubs that say up front that they have a narrower focus--could improve considerably is in the day-to-day coverage of our elected representatives, especially now. The debate in Washington at this moment is vital to the continuation of the Republic in some recognizable form. We have at least two newly-elected congressmen in Washington who are lumped in with the 157 members of the nutcase fringe that has locked government as tight as an engine without oil.

Morgan Griffith of the 9th District and Robert Hurt of the 5th (along with long-serving Bob Goodlatte of the 6th) are part of that cadre that is threatening Social Security and Medicare and our vital our bond rating, while refusing to allow a larger contribution to our national welfare from those who can most easily afford it, but you would not know that if you depended on local media (including print and electronic) to tell you the details of their actions.

Mostly what we get, especially from smaller publications, is press releases from the Congressmen telling us what a wonderful job they're doing--when nothing could be further from the truth. There simply is no media counter to their distortions. It was left to national media, for example, to tell us that a large percentage of Griffith's campaign chest in his upset of Rick Boucher during the last cycle came from Texas right wing zanies who want desperately to shut down the government so they can continue to rob the American people.

When Griffith was in the General Assembly of Virginia, he was known in Richmond as a back-room dealer, who was cranky, power-drunk and who tolerated no disagreement. I don't recall anybody local reporting that.

It is sad that we get distortions from the national press (like the doctrine that Bill Clinton balanced the budget all by himself when his policies were actually pretty awful, but he benefited from a technology boom and the notion that failing to raise the debt ceiling is harmless). It is worse when we get those distortions or total silence from the locals, whose only reason for existing is local news.

The lame excuse that "we don't have the resources" does not play well when local coverage is--or should be--at the very center of a publication's priorities. Having a person in Washington or paying a service to cover our Congressmen is not all that expensive when you consider the value a good reporter brings the product. But that apparently is not a priority in this market. We all suffer for it.

1 comment:

  1. This lack of local coverage isn't anything new for the Untimely and Worthless News. For years, people in Blacksburg wondered if Jim Shuler had retired from the General Assembly, since one rarely saw his name mentioned in any article about anything that he might comment about, have a hand in legislation about, or anything that he should have a role in. Once in a while Dave Nutter might get attention, but neither one got not near enough as they should have as local legislators. State senators for the NRV? Do we have any? You sure couldn't tell it by any coverage in the U&WN. On the other hand, if you want reader-submitted pictures of dogs and nature, the Current is your place to go.