There’s an interesting Politico story (8/22/12) about Andrea Seabrook, who until recently was a Capitol Hill reporter for NPR. She’s moved on to a new independent reporting project, but it’s what she said about her previous gig that’s most revealing:
“I realized that there is a part of covering Congress, if you’re doing daily coverage, that is actually sort of colluding with the politicians themselves because so much of what I was doing was actually recording and playing what they say or repeating what they say,” Seabrook told Politico. “And I feel like the real story of Congress right now is very much removed from any of that, from the sort of theater of the policy debate in Congress, and it has become such a complete theater that none of it is real…. I feel like I am, as a reporter in the Capitol, lied to every day, all day. There is so little genuine discussion going on with the reporters…. To me, as a reporter, everything is spin.”
She says her new Web-based project will try to “decipher Washington’s Byzantine language and procedure, sweeping away what doesn’t matter so listeners can focus on what does.”
Seabrook seems pretty clear that the problem isn’t the media: “I think the problem is the Congress itself. And we’re all in the same positions, scrambling to figure out how the hell to cover these assholes.”
So if a reporter is covering politicians who are lying to her every single day, what is preventing that reporter from saying as much? Why just repeat the lies?
The crystal clear implication here is that, for whatever reason, an NPR journalist doesn’t feel comfortable challenging lies and spin. It’s a pretty important admission, and one that NPR listeners–and management–should think about.