DISCONNECTED: Politics, the Press and the Public
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Hear our panelists' perspectives, then tell us what you think.

Jeff Greenfield
Dan Rather
Ramon Escobar
Gwen Ifill
What Drives Media Coverage
New technology with its need for instant everything; new corporate parents with their demand for bottom line focus; and new competitive intensity with the advent of national, local and internet "all news" outlets. All three trends are forcing news organizations into uncharted territory where the standards that guided reporters and editors a generation ago no longer retain their old authority. Do all these changes mean that our news is better, more complete and more accessible? Are they the causes of news media that's out of control? Or is it some of both? What is it that separates "good" news from "bad" and how can we -- the public and the press -- understand how to make that judgement?

For youth perspectives on these issues, visit Teenvoice.com's E-lections site, featuring student discussions, polls, and other resources. Check our list of resources for more organizations and websites that deal with these issues.

realmedia video clipJeff Greenfield
"I think it's not that it's too callous. What you're talking here about is not even an instinct. You're talking about a tropism. Like you know, 'plants to light.' I don't think people think about ratings. It's just, go get this story."

Are some stories so hot the media can't say no?
If yes, why?
That's their job
Must beat the competition

If no, why?
News organizations have controls
Journalistic safeguards can prevail

realmedia video clipDan Rather
"It's truer today than it was then. That fear is a very large factor in every newsroom, including myself. And it goes this way. If I don't do it, somebody else is going to do it. When somebody else does it, they're gonna get a higher number. They're going to get a better rating, they're going to get more circulation. This is a reality; the public needs to understand. There's no joy in saying this. But it is true. That fear increasingly dictates. And it's the fear that you won't survive. If you believe as I do, that the first thing is to last, but you have to last for some reason. You have to have some purpose in lasting. It's very difficult now."

Do you agree that fear rules the newsroom?
If yes, why?
Because of cable/internet competition
It's a ratings war
Good guys finish last

If no, why?
Healthy competition, not fear
Business as usual
New "news" rules -- must change

realmedia video clipRamon Escobar
"Try being a news director in this country today. They last about one and a half years. I mean I've been a news director for over two years, which is ridiculous. I should have been fired months ago. (LAUGHTER) They last about 14 months. How can anyone lead any organization, and do the things which all of you are asking us to do, if we're not given the chance to do it? And this cycle of ratings, of 'you have to get these ratings, or you're out' has got to end."

Do you agree that the tyranny of ratings must end?
If yes, why?
Ruining TV news
Forcing good people out
No time to develop good programs

If no, why?
Reflect viewer's preferences
Make money
Stay on top

realmedia video clipGwen Ifill
"I'm telling you that, I worked for a news organization at the time, when Bill Clinton was going through all of these things which were exposing, every day, one more thing about him, during the 1992 campaign. And we thought, as the leading newspaper in the country, we would not report it. Because we are the leading newspaper in the country. And we will set the standard. Guess what? The standard took off and raced without us. It didn't matter what our standards were."

Can the media maintain standards in this new climate?
If yes, why?
Public values legitimate press
Democracy depends on responsible press

If no, why?
The competition will dominate
Public has low standards

Spotlight on Issues >> Politician's Privacy | What the Public Wants |What Drives Media Coverage
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