Erick Erickson's Excellent Point

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 27 2013 9:18 AM

Ideological Movements Need Accurate Reporting  

Before coming to Slate, I'd spent a number of years working at mission-driven ideological publications. It's a genre of journalism that I think adds something invaluable to the media ecosystem, but there's always a frustrating tension around it that Erick Erickson grasps brilliantly here while explicating what he thinks the conservative movement needs:

The “Obamaphone” is a great example of this. Conservatives laughed out loud at the video of the lady saying Barack Obama had given her a phone. Conservatives used it as an example of all that was wrong with the expansion of the welfare state under Barack Obama. What many conservatives missed was that the program was a pre-existing program. In fact, the “Obamaphone” idea goes back to the Reagan Administration, but the present program was implemented in 2008 when George W. Bush was President. Government funds are not even used directly.
Focus on the Obamaphone by conservatives missed a number of key points and, in not covering the basic facts, sent conservative activists down rabbit holes. It would have been helpful if conservative reporters spent more time laying out the basic who, what, where, when, why, and how of the issue before exploring the necessity of the program and the fact that there are Americans who credit Barack Obama with giving them that phone.
Advertisement

This is right on. With any kind of ideological niche media, you obviously hope to influence the broader dialogue. But realistically, the vast majority of the audience for ideological niche media consists of people who already agree with you. Committed ideological conservatives are exactly the people who don't need random anecdotes about welfare state waste to be persuaded to adopt conservative ideas. What committed ideological conservatives do need is accurate information about American government and politics in order to think more clearly and accurately about their own activities. But what committed ideologues often want is stories that flatter their prejudices.

And I do think there tends to be an asymmetry here. Last night I read a great piece by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella about how prison guard unions often stand in the way of criminal justice reform and about how since the guards are often part of larger umbrella unions such as AFSME or AFGE they can punch above their weight. And I didn't read it in a libertarian magazine where it would be a natural ideological fit; I read it in Mother Jones, whose readers' instincts are going to be cross-pressured. And that's good for Mother Jones, not just as a matter of integrity, but because it's exactly the cross-pressured audience that needs to think about this subject. Progressive media doesn't have as much Real Talk as it should, but precisely to Erickson's point, conservative media has even less and it's genuinely counterproductive.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.