Opinion | Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort – 2/22/18 – by Brett Stephens – NYT

This is the text of a lecture delivered at the University of Michigan on Tuesday. The speech was sponsored by Wallace House.

“I’d like to express my appreciation for Lynette Clemetson and her team at Knight-Wallace for hosting me in Ann Arbor today. It’s a great honor. I think of Knight-Wallace as a citadel of American journalism. And, Lord knows, we need a few citadels, because journalism today is a profession under several sieges.

To name a few:

There is the economic siege, particularly the collapse of traditional revenue streams, which has undermined the ability of scores of news organizations to remain financially healthy and invest in the kind of in-depth investigative, enterprise, local and foreign reporting this country so desperately needs.

There is a cultural siege, as exemplified by the fact that a growing number of Americans seem to think that if something is reported in the so-called mainstream media, it is ipso facto untrue.”

David Lindsay:   “Excellent piece. I applaud it. I also recommended the two top comments, which reflect my concerns, as someone who wrote to the NYT complaining that Amy Chosick was on occassion unfair to Hillary Clinton, and appeared to hate her. Chosick has written a book, where she has admitted to her distaste for Hillary’s aloofness.

Lynn
New YorkFeb. 22
“Some readers, for example, still resent The Times for some of the unflattering coverage of Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign, as if the paper’s patriotic duty was to write fluff pieces about her in order to smooth her way to high office.”

No, we resent you for not doing what you so righteously claim to do. We resent you for not covering Hillary Clinton’s daily, substantive, issue-oriented responses to voters’ serious questions, and instead shallow email email email.

It even went so far that when your reporter, Amy Chozik, wrote about the book of policies Clinton and Kaine put together, all Chozik described were book sales.

The 2016 election was a perfect case study: a serious, policy-wonk candidate who devoted time to talk with a wide-range of stakeholders and to put together serious proposals to address a wide range of problems vs a candidate whose “policy” was to say “you’re really going to like it, believe me” or to claim “cheaper better” health care with no further details.

The serious policy proposals were ignored, the candidate who proposed them rejected as a poor politician, because details are boring and slogans are catchy.

And, after such shallow campaign reporting, you complain that readers aren’t interested in long-form journalism. We did not want “fluff”–which is what we got (and polls)–what we wanted was long-form journalism. The Times’ campaign coverage was sound-bites, personalities, and polls, and, of course, emails. Do better next time.

13 Replies481 Recommended

Paul-A commented February 22
P
Paul-A
St. Lawrence, NYFeb. 22
Times Pick
While I don’t always agree with Stephens, he’s the most thoughtful of the conservative columnists at the NYTimes; and this piece demonstrates his insightfulness.

However, there’s an important issue that he glosses over in this column. He does note that Rightwing media like Fox, Limbaugh, Beck, the Hill, Breitbart, etc. stopped being “news” outlets a long time ago. But he’s implying that most media on the Left have been following suit, and are drifting almost as far over the edge. This is a false equivalence.

Does he really believe that even the most Lefty media (like MSNBC and Huffington Post) are becoming nearly as bad as Fox and Breitbart?

And he also fails to acknowledge the impact that time adds to the equation: Rightwing media became partisan propaganda 20+ years ago, and their brainwashing/poisoning of our political and journalism discourse has accumulated to be ingrained in 35% of our citizens. The Left’s drift leftward has only been a recent response, in order to try to save our country.

And he also omits discussion of putatively moderate/reasonable Rightwing media, such as the Wall Street Journal (where hs used to work). The WSJ is much more biased than the NYTimes, or even the Washington Post. Yet why didn’t he speak out against that drift when he wrote for them? Why didn’t he decry what Fox et al were doing to “conservative news” over the past decades?

Reasonable conservatives need to come to terms with their silent complicity in what has brought us here.

14 Replies347 Recommended

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