“As a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce with subcommittee assignments to Communications and Technology and Oversight and Investigations, I am writing to inform you that I intend to request a hearing to explore network media bias in coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign,” North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, an outspoken supporter of Republican candidate Donald Trump, writes in a letter to the heads of broadcast companies ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox.
Here’s his tweet promoting the letter:
— Rep. Kevin Cramer (@RepKevinCramer) November 4, 2016
In the letter itself, Cramer sort of pre-emptively defends himself from accusations that this is a move back toward the bad old days of the federal Fairness Doctrine for broadcasters, arguing that he is taking aim at “surreptitious propaganda.”
There is no question that journalism, as a profession, has little in the way of ideological diversity. And it ain’t conservative Republicans driving bus, either. People who work in journalism, if they’re being honest with themselves, should acknowledge this and work to resolve it.
Megan McArdle wrote intelligently about this recently. She described the the liberal media establishments as a bunch of folks in a castle, and conservatives and other critics as people down in a swamp. “[W]hoever is to blame for the problem, yelling at the residents of the swamp to behave themselves is probably not going to fix it,” she wrote. “What would fix the problem is if the folks in the castle made a concerted effort to open the doors and persuade some of the swamp-dwellers to move inside. Not just to move inside, but to help run the place, pushing back on liberal pieties and dubious claims with the same fervor that liberals push back on conservative ones.”
I think that’s good advice for people in the journalism/media world, but it’s good advice for swamp dwellers too. Which brings me back to Cramer.
Threatening journalists with congressional hearings will only inspire them to dig in. They’re going to feel as though their 1st amendment rights are under assault, and they will have a point. The federal government using control of the broadcast spectrum as leverage over media content is both dumb from a freedom-of-the-press standpoint, but also pointless in a digital age where most people are getting content from the media anyway.
Cramer correctly identifies a real problem with negative implications for our society, but he takes the wrong approach in solving it.
Rather than confrontration, conservatives should be seeking ways to infiltrate the “castle,” as McArdle describes it.
Here’s the full letter:
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