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Avid Partisanship Is the Lifeblood of Political Media

Sam Taylor

Posted on December 16, 2020 01:05

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And maybe, in a way, that isn't a bad thing.

With the presidential election over, COVID-19 vaccines on the way, and the formal end of 2020 nearing, the roiling tumult of civil unrest and extreme partisanship that has saturated the last few months is starting to defuse. While tensions remain high and economic conditions infelicitous, the future appears rather bright — or at least welcomingly dull.

But for the political media, which often gorges itself on strife and indignity, the near future looks bleak.

According to a New York Times report, executives and journalists for heavyweight networks like CNN and MSNBC are anxious about 2021—a year to be void of the Trumpian White House and, hopefully, characterized by a greater degree of political adhesion and economic stability (and less pandemic).

The network's fear: that ratings and viewership will decline when the news isn't quite as spicy — when there's no nationally-polarizing elections, daily riots, stay-at-home orders, or slews of provocative tweets from a blunt president.

This isn't to insinuate that journalists and political commentators actively hope for polarized discord and civic confusion — merely that their industry benefits from it. When times are uncertain and politics pervasive, disgruntled voters and armchair activists, liberals and conservatives alike, turn to news networks and their flaunted pundits to vindicate their predetermined politics with mouthfuls of political pandering, or to stay current on sensationalist stories and entertaining controversy.

Yet this fact isn't innately bad. Sure, we might consider it an unfortunate manifestation of the human need for vindication from arbitrary authorities (e.g., talk-show hosts, political commentators, etc.), as opposed to rational discussion. Moreover, we could see it as a demonstration of the indifference we have for politics when it's not burning to the ground. But, taking on a more optimistic view, we can also see it as a fundamental aspect of good journalism.

Though many decry modern media as too activistic and agenda-driven (which it is), a function of the press is to advocate. Not that purportedly "unbiased" reporters should throw objectivity out the window and relentlessly advance some agenda. Rather, journalists—particularly those whose work presents political analyses and opinions — have a responsibility to deprecate deserving leaders and join the chorus of malcontent constituencies in offering solutions to sociopolitical instability. If we take this view, then avid partisanship (i.e., enthusiastic, political advocacy — not blind commitment to an ideology) is, in a way, a duty of the political media during times of dissension.

Now, I acknowledge there must be qualifications to this view: journalists shouldn't trade credibility to join a circus of political propagation — as many networks have — nor should they claim to be unassailable arbiters of truth. But when circumstances call for it, as 2020 has been wont to, the political media should utilize advocacy as a tool for political remedy, and if that entails focusing on "spicy" stories during times of tumult, and diminished popularity during periods of relative stability, then so be it.

Have an opinion or constructive criticism? Leave a comment below!

Sam Taylor

Posted on December 16, 2020 01:05

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https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2020/december/distrust-the-media-veteran-journalist-sharyl-attkisson-reveals-how-were-being-taught-to-love-censorship-and-hate-journalism...

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