Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What Lawmakers Should Know About the Evil Media

I just checked out a page on the Legislature's website especially for new members. (The place is crawling with them this year.)

Among the many links on the page is a 16-page article by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation called "Working With the Media."

It's got some good points, actually. These include:

* The Media is an Essential Element of Democracy. (Yeah, and don't forget it!)

* It is Not the Responsibility of the Media to Make You Look Good. (Ditto)

* Reporters Assigned to Cover the Legislature Will Have Various Levels of Understanding of the Legislative Process. (This is my 13th regular session and I still don't understand "rolling the clock.")

* Bad News is More Newsworthy Than Good News. (This section starts out explaining that media companies have to make a profit and the public is more attracted to bad news etc. Implying we seek out negative stories to sell papers. I can tell you right now that most reporters I've met are fairly ignorant of the business side of our companies. We don't get paid on commission and normally don't get bonuses for unflattering stories on politicians. These days we rarely get bonuses for anything. But this section finally makes a good point: "... it is expected that a legislature and individual members will do the job that they were elected to do. So it is considered more newsworthy when legislators fail to do their job when something goes awry."

* The Media's Schedule and Deadlines are Different Than Those of the Legislature. (Especially late in the session when late-night committee meetings and floor sessions start becoming commonplace.)

* Reporters Will Always Want to Talk to The Person or Persons Closest to the Story They Are Pursuing. (I have to say this hasn't been a major problem the Legislature at least since I've been here. Most leaders, committee chairs etc are fairly accessible. )

* Reporters' Personal Values are an Inevitable and Necessary Element of Every News Story. (The article makes a good point here. "Every decision about what to report -- which facts are important, which portions of a speech to quote, which answers to include from an interview -- requires personal value-laden judgment on the part of reporters and editors."