By: Mark Glennon*
To sense how badly discourse and reporting on government has degenerated, particularly in Illinois, start with the reasoning in the the Declaration of Independence. To justify separation from Britain, it “submitted facts to a candid world” — objective, simple realities. That list of facts comprised most of the Declaration.
Consider how differently issues are argued today. Spin is everything, and each side’s spin is reported as if it was meaningful. Blame substitutes for solutions. Process and campaign strategies displace analysis and policy. Polls are interpreted as validation. “Fair” coverage means equal coverage for both sides, even if one side’s is vacuous. Facts aren’t seriously asserted, much less supported. Politics, in other words, prevail over assessment of what’s fact, and that’s partly because political reporters double as policy experts.
Nowhere is that more harmful than with Illinois’ state and local fiscal crisis because most political reporters simply aren’t financial reporters. Yet, they shape the public’s understanding of the crisis, focused on the politics of it all, so, much of the public simply never gets the facts.
That’s not to excuse the public from ultimate blame. Journalists write what people will read, or they’ll be gone. Long past are the days when analysis as meaningful as the Federalist Papers captured the public’s attention for the ratification of the Constitution or when simple farmers listened intently for hours to the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Honor this Independence Day for many reasons, but include that it was a moment when facts illuminated, inspired and won.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.