Friday, June 17, 2011

In the political arena, both sides need to play nice

In the past month we have seen two examples of people "getting even" in the news business.

Anthony Weiner's farewell news conference was about the strangest one I've ever seen. Oh, I've seen angry citizens yelling during town meetings and the like, but nothing like the heckling that went on yesterday.

Which brings up the topic of a few columns I've seen about Weiner. That the media was "piling on" with relentless coverage. But this was simply getting even with a man who had been rude and condescending to the media, while committing the cardinal sin. Lying to our faces.

You do that, and do it with arrogance and disdain, and our gloves will come off. The blood is in the water, and our great white shark DNA moves to the forefront.

On the other side of the coin is Sarah Palin's bus tour. I heard several members of the media grumbling that she wasn't putting out an itinerary, that reporters had no idea where they were going or when they'd be done.

Regardless of what you think of Palin's politics, I thought her message was obvious. I don't think she was in any mood to be helpful to a bunch of people who had put her through the wringer.

Both stories illustrate the hostility that has developed between politicians and the media.

Back in the day you were expected to be aggressive, but polite. You could throw hardball questions as long as you did it with respect.

And politicians respected reporters who were fair, even if they were tough.

You want more exclusives as a political reporter? Be fair to everyone. Be aggressive but respectful. You don't have to get in someone's face to ask a tough question. And never, ever, let anyone know where your personal political beliefs lie.

And here's a memo to politicians: stop lying to us. We're gonna find out anyway, and you're only making it worse. When you display arrogance, we know there's something more beneath the surface, and we've got an unlimited supply of shovels.

Yes, politicians leak stuff to reporters who are in their pockets all the time. But if you're in someone's pocket, you're only getting stuff from one side. Be fair, and chances are you'll hear from both sides. And if you get the reputation as an objective reporter, you'll get real stories with substance rather than just propaganda.


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