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Why Politicians Are Learning to Ignore News Media

Successful politicians now think they can get away with ignoring mainstream media. Could they be onto something?

A recent development — politicians ignoring media — has set journalists buzzing:

This past weekend, Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio, both of whom are up for reelection this fall, headlined the Republican Party of Florida’s annual Sunshine Summit. Other high-profile Florida Republicans were also in attendance at the Hardrock Hotel & Casino event, which this year tried something new: after seven years of being open to the press, “it limited which media could attend, giving inside-the-room access to right-wing outlets that give the governor positive coverage,” Politico reports, adding that traditional GOP figures were “largely replaced by the conservative social media influencers with massive followings who have recently moved to Florida and become some of DeSantis’ most vocal backers.”

Many local and national mainstream outlets were unable to get press credentials, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, including the Miami Herald, Politico, Florida Politics, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. A Florida wire service, the Wall Street Journal, and Business Insider were among the few mainstream outlets allowed to cover at least some parts of the weekend.

Charlotte Klein, “Will Republicans shut out the press in 2024?” at Vanity Fair (July 26, 2022)
press and media camera ,video photographer on duty in public new

Some media professionals are fine with that. At The Federalist, Jordan Boyd writes, “When journalists bother to try to talk to Republicans, they are more likely than not acting in bad faith.” (July 27, 2022)

Others are not pleased:

Most top ’24 contenders are media-makers in their own right, hosting their own podcasts or, at minimum, building out robust social-media feeds. The rise of podcasting has been a huge development. One aide to a potential ’24 contender told me they are far more interested in getting on Steve Bannon’s podcast than sitting down for an interview with a mainstream publication.

David Freedlander, “Why Republicans Stopped Talking to the Press” at New York Magazine Intelligencer (July 25, 2022)

But let’s talk about this. Why would successful politicians think they can get away with ignoring mainstream media? Could they be onto something?:

Mainstream media have likely become much less relevant to political success. For one thing, as Gallup reports, the public has lost confidence in traditional media at a historic rate:

Americans’ confidence in two facets of the news media — newspapers and television news — has fallen to all-time low points. Just 16% of U.S. adults now say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers and 11% in television news. Both readings are down five percentage points since last year.

Megan Brenan, “Media Confidence Ratings at Record Lows” at Gallup (July 18, 2022)

Not only that but there is declining public interest in the output from news media. From Axios,we learn,

Engagement with news content has plunged during the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2021 and in some cases has fallen below pre-pandemic level … ngagement with news content across all platforms declined significantly in the first half of 2022.

Neal Rothschild, Sara Fischer, “News engagement plummets as Americans tune out” at Axios (July 12, 2022)

Another factor is that, as Pew Research Center noted a week earlier, many American journalists no longer even try to play to the middle of their audience (a conventional traditional approach):

Journalists in the United States differ markedly from the general public in their views of “bothsidesism” – whether journalists should always strive to give equal coverage to all sides of an issue – according to a recent Pew Research Center study. A little more than half of the journalists surveyed (55%) say that every side does not always deserve equal coverage in the news. By contrast, 22% of Americans overall say the same, whereas about three-quarters (76%) say journalists should always strive to give all sides equal coverage.

Naomi Forman-Katz and Mark Jurkowitz, “U.S. journalists differ from the public in their views of ‘bothsidesism’ in journalism” at Pew Research Center (July 13, 2022)

One outcome of the journalists’ approach is that readers who don’t hear both sides are less likely to learn new things — which reduces the media’s value for public discussion. In turn, the journalist ends up writing for people who only wish to hear one side. Then he doesn’t learn the other side, doesn’t grow in understanding, and is ultimately a less useful source.

So, on the whole, politicians may be making a sound decision if they choose to contact likely voters directly.

Next: The role mainstream media really play in our society today

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Denyse O'Leary

Denyse O'Leary is a freelance journalist based in Victoria, Canada. Specializing in faith and science issues, she is co-author, with neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul; and with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor of the forthcoming The Human Soul: What Neuroscience Shows Us about the Brain, the Mind, and the Difference Between the Two (Worthy, 2025). She received her degree in honors English language and literature.

Why Politicians Are Learning to Ignore News Media