I make no secret of the fact that I’m a news junkie. Probably there’s a support group for my problem, but, you know, I’m not sure that being informed is a real problem. Once upon a time, I thought I was going to be a real journalist when I grew up. I thank MaryBeth Lucas, my journalism teacher at Cabrillo High School, for teaching both great journalism and the fact that straight reporting simply isn’t my thing.
One of the many lessons that sticks with me is that you cannot truly write without bias. Can’t be done. To write without any sort of bias is to write like matzoh. Sure, you can report the facts, the straight, dry facts, but what is news without color? The man on the street interview? The details that set the scene (do you mention the jacaranda or do you note the burned out vehicle three houses down)?
I am of the belief that reporting without bias is a relatively new concept in our society. Newspapers have always toed the opinion line. And maybe it’s a curiously American thing, to have news presented without obvious political bias. You speak with someone from the United Kingdom, you realize that they read their papers as much for the news as the bias presented. In many ways, Fox News is really a great American tradition. The problem is that we have created this notion of “unbiased” reporting.
Maybe it’s an offshoot of public airwaves. You simply cannot have bias on taxpayer-supported stations. Thus, we have created the myth of unbiased reporting.
I am an unabashed liberal. I believe that government exists to better humanity. I cannot understand why health care is so expensive. I cannot grasp that the average person cannot afford to live in my neighborhood — my neighborhood being one of those places designed to house the average person. I cannot accept that we spend more money on guns than schools.
I believe that an educated, informed citizenry is what makes this country great. That we allow ourselves to mimic the Dark Ages is another rant. This is about what I like.
I like Talking Points Memo.com. It is a decidedly liberal blog — in the best sense of the concept — with an admitted Democratic Party bias. Though I’m one of those Americans who falls into the morass known as “third party” or “other”, I trend toward Democratic more than Republican. What can I say? My mother walked the streets for the Gary Hart who didn’t have scandal attached to his name. My grandmother was anti-Nixon for the best of all reasons: the man was a lousy tipper.
She knew this first-hand.
What I like about Talking Points Memo is that, despite its stated bias, the site does not hesitate to call out members of the Democratic Party for misbehavior. TPM and its myriad sub-sites (hello, equally addictive TPMMuckraker) follow a reasonably moderate Democratic line, and they have lead the mainstream media in cataloguing such scandals as the William Jefferson/cash-in-freezer imbroglio.
TPM (that’s what regulars call it) was founded by journalist Josh Micah Marshall, and his reporter’s instincts continue to guide the sites’ principles. TPM writers have a nose for story. You know this U.S. Attorney scandal? Let’s just say the regular TPM readers know who broke and followed and reported and dug into the story. I knew the name Bradley Scholzman weeks ago.
TPM is driving the mainstream media to dig further, deeper. To think about the story rather than the press release. To pay attention to the details. We so need this in our news coverage. I believe that the news media needs to provide more complete — even if they are biased — views of the news rather than glossy images. For most stories, there are at least two sides. It is important that people have as many viewpoints as possible to make informed decisions.
What I like most about TPM is that while the site’s biases are clear (Marshall supplements his own writing with contributions from a host of other writers), the issues raised are not one-sided. Marshall and his reporters might grab issues like bulldogs, but they also regularly publish corrections and additional information to stories. When information is wrong or more facts change the complexion of a story, the reader is told.
And because the site is clearly of Democratic bent, the reporters — who mix their opinions into the story — haven’t shied away from expressing disappointment with the performance of the Democratic-lead Congress. On the other hand, the reporters have also found the time to explain the nuances of what’s going on in Washington D.C. Real life means making real compromises. You do it every day, so do our nation’s leaders.
There is no right, no wrong. Generally speaking.
TPM and its sibling sites are also Internet successes. Every now and then, Marshall has a fundraiser for specific causes (full disclosure and all that: I’ve donated to the site a few time), but the venture is also funded, comfortably, by advertising. The staff reporters are paid, the business has actual office space, maybe even they have regular pizza parties. I like to think so.
I try to limit myself to the TPM family once a day. I usually sneak in two. It’s not like anyone’s looking. And I’m always guaranteed new content (extremely slow news days excepted). I mean, I’m a news junkie. I need constant content…