PG15: Harvard’s Alex Jones on Losing The News

This week, Michael talks with Alex Jones about his book Losing The News: The Future of the News that Feeds Democracy. Mr. Jones is Director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and Laurence M. Lombard Lecturer in the Press and Public Policy. He covered the press for The New York Times from 1983 to 1992 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1987.

Things We Discuss:
How good news is like an ugly old cannonball.
What Thomas Dewey and Walter Lippmann have to do with the news industry.
Objectivity as a commercial necessity.
Why modern political media is more biased than it used to be.
Bad journalism and the Rolling Stone rape story.
If biased editorial boards influence news reporting.
The liberal bias of reporters.
The bias of the media toward ‘clobbering the president’.
Bill and Hillary Clinton’s hate/hate relationship with the media.
Why faster news isn’t better news.
How accurate news is a luxury the media increasingly can’t afford.
The values of the web and how they degrade good news reporting.
News as an entertainment commodity.
The Buzzfeedificaton of news.
What killed two-newspaper towns.
When owning a newspaper was like having a license to print money.
If the decline of local media really matters.
How local media can survive.
Print dollars and digital dimes.
Why most television news is derivative.
The pros and cons of citizen journalism.
Alex Jones’ news recommendations: New York Times, Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Red StateRealClearPolitics.

Trade Agreements and America’s Failing Experiment

In what may appear to be a scene out of Bizarro World, many congressional Republicans are pushing to give President Obama fast-track trade negotiation authority while the president’s own party is doing its best to make sure that their leader fails in his effort to gain more authority over trade deals.

On one level, it’s straightforward interest-group politics at work: Democrats and their labor allies fighting the job losses that will may come with an agreement with Republicans and their business supporters focusing on the corporate profits to be made.

But on another level it’s an object lesson in the failure of modern American democracy, which Professor Kirby Goidel and I talked about in Politics Guys Episode 12: America’s Failing Experiment. In our conversation, and in his book, Professor Goidel argues that too much responsiveness to special interests and/or the specific interests in their districts makes congress unable to act in the general public interest. The president, on the other hand, as the only public official elected by the country as a whole, is in a much better position to act for the good of the entire country.

One of the solutions Professor Goidel suggests is greater use of mechanisms that limit congressional discretion while still giving congress a say. Fast-track trade authority, which allows congress to vote trade deals up or down, but doesn’t permit amendments, fits the bill perfectly. Too bad the president’s own party can’t see past its own short-term parochial interests and support him on this.