|Jana Birchum/Austin Chronicle|
Maddow is a true policy wonk. In addition to a summary of her book's thesis, she offered some interesting political analysis, especially about the current state of the Republican Party, and whether it will be able to reconcile its internal conflicts and emerge as a strong alternative to the Democrats. That was all ok with me, since I'm more of a policy wonk than a techie myself. I was interested to hear that Maddow wishes that more Republicans would come on her show, and that she would like to see Republicans make more cogent arguments than most of the ones we are used to hearing, since I agree with her that improving the quality of political debate is likely to lead to better policy decisions.
And speaking of partisan media, of which most people consider Rachel Maddow and MSNBC to be an example, I attended another panel today of journalists and political science professors who argued that partisan media is probably not as bad a thing as we have been led to believe. For one reason, the people who are fans of the most partisan outlets comprise a fairly small share of the public. Most Americans, surprisingly enough given that we are portrayed as bitterly divided politically, are not as far apart as conventional wisdom suggests. Most agree, for example, on moderate positions on issues ranging from abortion and gay marriage, to immigration.
Moreover, it may not be that partisan news sources cause people to become more narrow-minded, as much as it is that people who watch openly partisan sources probably gravitate toward those sources because they confirm what those people already believe. The morals here are that we all ought to expose ourselves to a spectrum of opinions; and that journalists should probably worry more about being accurate than about being partisan. Complete objectivity in news reporting is probably not possible, but if reporters are aware of their own biases, and check the stories that confirm their biases as carefully as they check the stories that run counter to their biases, we'll be all right.