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Washington matters. Or, it doesn’t. Welcome to the future of news. 5/21/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Multitude of voices.

I’m going to turn over the next two paragraphs to two highly respected thinkers in the news industry. First, here is Washington Post political correspondent Daniel Balz, speaking at Columbia University. “This election reminds us of something that has too often been ignored: That Washington matters. That government matters. Most of all, that who wins the White House matters. As we have seen over the past eight years, the choice of a president affects the way America projects its power around the world and how the world sees us. It affects who gets health care and at what price. It affects who gets taxed and at what rates. It affects the distribution of wealth in a society where income inequality continues to grow. It affects how we educate children and how we care for older Americans. It affects what this nation does to combat global climate change and therefore the world your children and your grandchildren will inherit.”

Now, here is Carolina Journal’s Jon Ham. “Look at the front page of almost any daily newspaper in any town in America. What do you see? Invariably there will be a story or two about some victim group or person who is being helped by a government program or by a non-profit, often using government funds… Editors seem to think this activity is the essence of American life. Except for the advertising, a newspaper reader from another planet would never know there was a private sector…Unfortunately for newspapers, most people have nothing to do with the welfare state and its many mechanisms, except for funding it with their tax dollars. The private sector is where they live. They go to work, raise their kids, pay their taxes and don’t ask anything from the government except for national defense, good schools, garbage pickup, water and sewer hookups and effective police protection.”

Both men make solid, legitimate arguments that are worthy of our respect. It is strangely easy to agree with both of them even though they represent views that are essentially polar opposites. And that’s exactly the point. News is not a science, but a social science. Truth is elusive. The issues our news covers are too complex to run through repeatable laboratory experiments, and will always be plagued with unknowns, unknowables, and peoples’ rights to express their own preferences. That’s why news is best served-up as a debate — a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. In fact, that’s what the founding fathers wanted it to be. The Internet will bring us voices who think government matters more, and others less. Plus a myriad of voices who think government is focused on the wrong things. What really matters is the American experiment, which succeeds when we respect them all.


1. Right Angles » Blog Archive » Highly respected thinker, that’s me - 5/26/08

[…] of Washington University in St. Louis’ Center for the Application of Information Technology, called me (and Dan Balz of The Washington Post) the other […]

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