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LESS NEWS GABBING, MORE NEWS GATHERING

(AP Photo/Michael Wyke)


Ronna McDaniel was barely in at NBC before she was out. The former RNC Chair was slated to join the panel of political pundits at the network and “would add to NBC News’ coverage with an insider’s perspective on national politics and the future of the Republican Party.”


But is punditry really what we need more of in today’s news coverage? It seems like in this world of ratings driven news, we’re trading fact for opinion and news for entertainment. Pundits care less about helping us understand politics than they do about scoring points for their side. NPR media reporter David Folkenflick shared an anecdote recently about a conversation he had with former senior Clinton campaign and White House advisor Paul Begala about his role as a Pundit on CNN. Begala said the network was paying him to be biased. He said he approached his pundit role much as a drunk approaches a light post - more for support than illumination. 


The fact is that both political sides are convinced that the other is acting in their own self interests and would rather see the country fail than lose a political battle. There’s no denying that the state of political news coverage is largely to blame for this “villainizing.” We have divided up networks and outlets based on their perceived political leaning. And punditry has also been a big part of the problem that has polarized our electorate. 


Ronna McDaniel had allegedly signed a $300,000 a year contract. And as a pundit, she wasn’t going to bring the “perspective” to the network’s news coverage. As a pundit her job was to bring a point of view. 


I’ll grant that what the entire country really does need is perspective. But that comes not from talking heads shouting at each other. Perspective comes from real journalists that go out and illuminate for both sides why the other thinks the way they do. 


Here’s a real world example. When Richard Nixon won his surprise election in 1972, executives at CBS wondered whether they’d missed the existence of the so-called Silent Majority that Nixon said powered his win. But they didn’t hire a Republican political pundit to bring perspective. They sent journalist Charles Kuralt out into the country to report on America's perspectives on politics.


So if we can take away anything positive from the Ronna McDaniel unhiring, maybe it is that we need less news gabbing and more news gathering. Let’s hire fewer pundits and hire more reporters if we truly want to enlighten viewers and voters.


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