No More New Yorker
Just about ten years ago I cancelled my subscription to the New Yorker, and stopped listening to NPR. I enjoyed both, and generally respected their journalism, but they were making me worse at my job.
My job, in one way or another, is to convince other people to support the causes I think are important. People who do that for a living – speechwriters, political ad makers, communications professionals – need to remain connected to the audience they are trying to reach. And if your audience is watching ABC or Fox news, and reading Parade Magazine, while your information comes from The New Yorker and National Public Radio, you are going to be worse understanding their point of view.
It’s not that those two outlets, or similar ones, don’t cover the problems of Middle America. It’s more a tone and world-view that is carried throughout their journalism, no matter how they strive to be open and balanced. The New Yorker’s Talk of Town, with its famously Manhattan-centric view, is perhaps the most obvious example. But the tone, topics, and sensitivities of much of what’s written for those outlets carries a distinct flavor. Their great journalism does the country an enormous service, but if you are trying to understand how to converse with most Americans, you need a diverse diet of information.
This has little (though not nothing) to do with the notion of The Liberal Media. In that debate, both sides are probably right. It’s hard to deny that the vast majority of reporters are probably liberal, at least on social issues. It’s also painfully obvious that they strain to avoid seeming like it. (The media likes nothing better than a moderate Republican or nominal Independent.) But what I’m talking about has more to do with a cultural sense of being from one part of America -- places like Westchester County, New York or Evanston, Illinois. Those places are certainly part of America – no less “real” than Peoria or Huntsville – but they are not all of America. And if you want to reach the rest of the country, understand their needs and values and points of view so you can convince them to vote like you, you can’t just read Slate and The Washington Post*.
*I read them both every day.
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