“Politics is about the people.” Wouldn’t it be an ideal world if our nation was actually able to uphold this role that the government and the institutions that influence and portray to the public what is happening in the government are based upon? Mo Elliethee, Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, when talking to Washington Center students properly illustrated this foundation, with the above quote. With the state of politics and dissatisfaction with some of the representation in government, this made me think of two specific sectors that have an influence on giving a voice to the people and empowering them to be heard. The first is representatives in government, and the second, and the focus of this post is the media. The media is set up to be a vehicle for relaying mass information to the public. Most importantly in Washington DC, it seems, the media is essential in communicating what the government is doing. Although, with the increasingly competitive nature of media outlets in DC, the level of accuracy, and the importance of the content that media focuses on is not always what is essential for Americans to receive in order to gain an accurate picture of what is going on in the West Wing and Capitol Hill. This is something that, in the 2020 election, will need to be addressed, though in order to give Americans that feel marginalized by the political system a voice for the platforms they are concerned about.
C-SPAN arguably is the most direct, bias-free, and accurate media outlet to get Americans information about what is going on in Washington DC. Considering that, if Americans truly wanted unbiased and accurate information about policymaking, they would watch C-SPAN. This although, is hardly the case, as viewership of the network has been rapidly decreasing according to Brian Lamb, Chairman, and Co-Founder of C-SPAN when he talked to students at the Washington Center. So, according to this fact, individuals are not as interested in these unbiased media sources.
Considering this lack of interest in C-SPAN, what then do Americans want instead? According to Brian Lamb, they are interested in the theatrics and drama within the government, such as any recent scandals that President Trump has caused, or polarized information about why the government is shut down. So, the information that other news outlets are giving Americans at home is this dramatized, polarized information, because, according to Lamb, media must “follow the money.” Following the money in news, usually does not lead to advocating for specific demographics or giving individuals a voice, which is something that many Americans are dissatisfied with on the part of the government, which could explain why political outsiders are increasingly making it in the political arena.
Entering the campaign cycle for the 2020 election, something to think about is how to give Americans a voice that is heard. The demographics that feel under-targeted in government are often those that are not commonly the foci of large news coverage, as they are not necessarily concerned with issues that would lead media sources to create stores that they would capitalize on. Despite this lack of financial sustainability and benefits of viewership that giving the voice to American people has for the media, there are still influential groups that are able to recognize its benefit.
One of these is PEW Charitable Trust. Matt Vasilogambros, a journalist for PEW Charitable Trust, explained to Drake University students how his job as a journalist is different than others in the field. Instead of being concerned with viewership, PEW has tasked Vasilogambros with spending their money on traveling around the nation to discover and create stories in the category of community journalism. Instead of focusing on the dramatic and scandalous stores that many journalists working for major media outlets typically focus on, Vasilogambros talks to community members to give those that do not typically have their voice heard in government a platform to talk. This is something that will be important to pay attention to and target entering the 2020 campaign trail, as those in the middle of the nation are the people who feel they are not represented in government and do not have a voice. Targeting their concerns, and understanding issues relevant to them should be an important concern for media in the near future, and will actually, make politics more about the people.