Being in Washington you get a sense of what is actually happening and how people actually feel. You might talk to people that work here, just live here, or just visit here, the answers the same, there is major change happening in this city, and people are noticing it. There are changes in the way Congress is working, the way journalism is being conducted, as well other jobs around DC. Some people think the change is happening too fast, while others are embracing it. Whatever the change may be, as the old saying goes, its constant.
We talked to a few different journalists while we have been here, and each time we talk with them it feels like the same question gets asked. What has changed since you have started here? Almost every time someone asked, and no matter who you asked, they had an answer. Some people we talked to had only been in those positions for short periods of time and despite of that they still had an answer to contribute.
Matt from PEW Stateline was one of the first journalists we had the chance to sit down with. He is fairly young but has had an expansive career already. For him the world of journalism has changed in a way that relies on clicks and fast paced news. People want to get their stories out there first and be seen. After hearing that, I started to wonder what that could do for publications. One it could spread a really important story fast. This happens through social media as well as other connections. Or two, it allows for journalists to write really simple pieces and ignore facts that may need to be included. We also talked to a editor from Politico named Jane. She has been part of the press for many years, starting at the Des Moines register. The same question was asked to her and the two other reporters that were with her in the room. Their answer was oddly similar to Matt’s. Jane made sure that we understood the change in how news is written today, specifically with regards to the pace. Today we consume news so fast and we crave for more. This can be attributed to the rise of Twitter and Facebook and the accessibility that people have to sharing abilities on these sites. This was very similar to Matt’s response. This causes the news to be poorly constructed.
Jane explained to us that when she first started journalism relied heavily on face to face interactions. It took time to talk with your contacts about a story. Time was spent collecting facts and doing grunt work to write a story. Now much of that is gone and replaced by email. There is no real conversation being had at a personal level anymore. We then had the opportunity to talk with the editor-in-chief of The Hill, Bob Cusack. One of the first things he told us about was the change in The Hill since he had been there. Without even asking the question, Bob was already talking about changes in the press. The big thing that he talked to us about, regarding change, was the fact that when he started at The Hill, there were only 7 reporters. Today, the company is over 100 people, consisting of different departments. News organizations and press publications have become such a big operation that it takes hundreds of people to staff and run a place like The Hill or Politico. This wasn’t always the case.
Going forward in the field of journalism we as a public have to be aware of these structural changes to the world of the press and the news. We have to be cautious in our intake of news. What something may be a true claim, but it could be taken in a sense that was unintended if all the facts are not present.
In DC there have also been changes to the political world, I don’t think that’s a big secret. One of the first people to really bring this to my attention from the past two weeks was Michael Steele. Steele is the former chair of the RNC and former governor of Maryland. Steele talked a lot about change, specifically in the Republican party and Congress due to the win of Donald Trump. He had a lot to say. Steele is aware, and made us aware, that the party as we once knew it, is gone. He called the past Republican party the party of George H. W. Bush. These types of Republicans no longer exist. He credited this change to a few things.
One, the change in the way people get their news. People have been creating bubbles for themselves. So often today, people only get the news that they want to hear, and not the news that they need to hear. It’s not healthy for politics when people close themselves off in the way much of the country has been doing. He made sure that we knew it was happening on both sides of the aisle. Steele also attributed this change to ways the Congress has been failing the Constitution and allowing the President to get away with things that he clearly should never be able to get away with. This typically comes from the Republican side. I asked myself the question after listening to Michael Steele last week, where do we go? There isn’t a clear answer for that and it’s hard to tell if there ever will be. However, Steele left us with a question, what type of leaders do you want, and what kind of country do you want? This isn’t an answer but it is a place to start.
The last thing that I will mention in this post is something that I think should be taken into great consideration. It comes from the time we spent with Bob Schieffer. Bob has spent a lifetime covering politics for CBS and has thoughts on just about everything, including change in politics, technology, and culture. Bob started the conversation with a startling statement by saying that what we are going through right now, in terms of the White House and our political world, is not normal. He claims that this is not the way things are supposed to be or have been in the past. Frankly I believe he is right, but that’s besides the point. Bob says this because of structural in the White House and the way it is run. We have allowed for factions to form in the executive branch that pose a serious threat to what happens in the White House and what comes out of it. Bob has covered tumultuous times in history throughout his career, and when he says that something like this isnt normal, and that this is not the way things should be, that should be a cause for alarm.
Bob also talked very briefly on the the internet and technology. These two things, in his eyes, have had a more profound and lasting effect on culture in the world than the printing press. This is a huge statement, and in fact he may be right. The printing press was a revolutionary advancement in society. It truly did allow for cultures to collide. However, the internet is doing that faster and in a more overpowering way. Change in this aspect is difficult to assess because on one hand the printing press changed culture in such a profound way and it led to the spread of so many cultures that did not have the opportunity to spread otherwise. But on the other hand, the internet does this, but multiplies it by about 100. Anyway, Bob talked later about technology and how we advance too fast in this regard and as a society we don’t always have a full grasp on what we have created before we use it. This is true, and to an extent it could have a detrimental effect on our society. Yet, the changes in technology have changed the way society functions and we can’t just pause our advancements and attempt to understand the technology we already have.
Change is constant in this world. We can’t stop it but we did start it. There’s no slowing what we have started either. All we can do is keep up with the changes in technology, learn about the changes in culture, and try and work with the changes in politics. If we can’t do that, then maybe our society has run amuck.