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.

PG14: Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts The American Mind

In this episode, Michael interviews Professor Tim Groseclose, author of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts The American Mind. In the book (which was based on an article by Groseclose and Jeffery Milyo) Groseclose argues that there is significant liberal bias in the media and that this bias has a very real effect on American politics. This finding went against nearly all of the conventional wisdom about media bias in the academic literature and resulted in a great deal of media attention – along with some very angry denunciations.

Things We Discuss:
Why the conventional wisdom about media bias is wrong.
How giving equal time to both sides can bias the news.
Using think tanks to measure partisan bias.
A quiz to measure your own political bias.
Why most academics won’t admit their bias (and why he did.)
The overwhelming liberal bias of academics.
Why economists are less liberal than other social scientists.
The centrist Drudge Report and the liberal Wall Street Journal.
The perils of popularizing academic work.
Critics who don’t read the book they’re reviewing (maybe they skim).
How and why media bias matters in politics.
The Fox News Effect.
Why journalists should try to be as honest and ethical as politicians.
Recommended news sources: Bret Baier, Morning Joe, Drudge, Washington Post, RealClearPolitics.
Whether Ohio State should have been in last year’s BSC playoff.



PG13: Navigating the News: A Political Media User’s Guide

In this episode, Jay interviews Mike about his book Navigating the News: A Political Media User’s Guide. After nearly two decades of teaching college students about politics and the media, Mike decided that he wanted to write a book on the topic – something short and engaging that brought together the best of what he’d been recommending and using in his classes for years, most notably Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, and Farhad Manjoo’s True Enough.

In the interview, Mike and Jay discuss:
– If this is a new golden age for media.
– Whether the mainstream media has a liberal bias.
– Why you shouldn’t get your political news from TV.
– The challenges of filtering out bad political media.
– Why all media is biased, and what you can do about it.
– The Twinkies and broccoli of political media.
– Where to go for the best political information.

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.

PG12: America’s Failing Experiment: How We The People Have Become The Problem

This week, I interview Dr. Kirby Goidel, political scientist and author of the book America’s Failing Experiment: How We The People Have Become the Problem.

Dr. Goidel is a Professor and Fellow in the Department of Communication and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M. Prior to that, he was Scripps Howard Professor, Director of the Public Policy Research Lab, and Director of the Louisiana Survey at LSU. He’s authored or co-authored several books – including Misreading the Bill Of Rights: Top Ten Myths Concerning Your Rights and Liberties which was released on March 31 of this year. Dr. Goidel also has a long string of publications in a wide range of peer-reviewed academic journals over the past several decades. In other words, when it comes to American politics and public opinion, he really knows his stuff.

And so when I saw he’d written a book about about how ‘we the people’ were the problem with American democracy, I was intrigued. His argument – essentially that the problem with modern democracy is too much democracy – is both contrarian and controversial, but he backs it up with strong arguments and plenty of data. We had a great conversation and I think you’ll enjoy hearing what he has to say.

In this episode, Dr. Goidel and I talk about:
– Whether Americans can handle the job of self-governance.
– Politicians who are *too* in touch with the people, and why that’s a problem.
– How a more democratic system is more vulnerable to special interests.
– Whether Ted Cruz is more dangerous than Huey Long.
– If a return to ‘Constitutional Principles’ would help.
– Why more education won’t help much.
– Why campaign finance reform won’t help much either.
– Some ideas as to what could turn things around.
– If American democracy is doomed to fail.

PG11: Police Brutality, Riots, and Same-Sex Marriage

This week, the Politics Guys look at the situation in Baltimore: the riots, the causes, and what can be done to reform the police and restore the community. We also discuss Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage case heard by the Supreme Court this week. Finally, we talk about Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, the first Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton.

In this episode, we discuss:
– Police corruption.
– If there are justifications for rioting.
– Whether Democrats are to blame for what happened in Baltimore.
– Federal aid: a way to help Baltimore, or throwing money away?
The Wire’s David Simon on the disastrous drug war and bad policing.
– Whether there’s a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
– Predictions on how the Supreme Court will rule.
– How a pro-same-sex marriage ruling might help Republicans.
– Bernie Sanders’ quixotic challenge to Hillary Clinton.