former journalists discuss a profession in crisis

Bloomberg to DC: Drop Dead

In Blog on August 8, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I have a friend at Bloomberg’s Washington operation who is among the estimated 25 staffers that are losing their jobs at DC’s Bloomberg bureau.  They are among Washington’s best and most senior reporters.

This is a very disheartening move.  It’s bad enough when news outlets drop good people because of budget pressures.  But in this case, it appears that Bloomberg simply does not believe that covering the Congress, government or campaign finance is as important as covering the blood sport of politics.

Bloomberg reportedly is lavishing money on Game Change authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, both of whom live in the Big Apple.  According to Politico, Bloomberg is spending millions on these two reporters alone, an estimated $4 million through 2016.  The two reporters are gearing up a new political broadcast show for Bloomberg, a program replacing one hosted by longtime political journalist Al Hunt, who will continue to write a weekly column.  A new website also is part of the plan.

The American public is drowning in political coverage, which has become a genetically modified form of reporting, a mix of sports coverage and entertainment gossip, with some satire and cheekiness thrown in for good measure.  What do political reporters tell us?  Not much.  They predict and speculate as much as sports commentators, but with less reliability.  They show us the “game” behind the curtains of political campaigns, which is as entertaining as knowing the “behind the scenes” gossip of any enterprise.  But really, the Republic didn’t benefit a heck of a lot from the “information” in Game Change.

What citizens don’t know is how the federal government works, or how Congress works, or fails to work.  And don’t get me started on how badly nearly every news outlet does covering federal agencies.  After all, why would anyone want to know whether the Environmental Protection Agency is actually protecting the environment, or the Food and Drug Administration truly is truly ensuring our access to safe and effective prescription drugs and devices?  We only learned about the Veterans Administration and its flawed record serving vets because of brave whistleblowers at VA hospitals who couldn’t stand the abuses and spoke out.  It was only after years of misconduct triggered Congressional hearings and government investigations that this scandal got the media attention it deserved.

D.C. might be a backwater to some of the media elite, but it’s where government either fails or succeeds, and where corporations and other special interests spend their time and money trying to influence public policy.

Funny, you don’t see the nation’s biggest lobby firms pulling out of DC and moving to New York.  Maybe they know something media’s movers and shakers fail to grasp.

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