Friday, February 19, 2010

Good Guys, Bad Guys

In one of my first posts this semester I talked about how corrupt the world of politics is and how journalism is the first line of defense that protects the American people by way of filtering out all the "grade A bullshit".  I've always harbored this sense of allegiance to reporting over politics, maintaining that I was on the more respectable side of the divide. Don't get me wrong, I've long believed certain media appendages (cough FOX news cough) stifle and complicate the political process more so than they aide it along; but I never truly saw it from the other side until today.

This morning we went to the DCCC aka D-Trip (The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and spoke with a young girl who works in incumbency protection. Essentially, she aides incumbent Democrats get re-elected in their local congressional House races. Like nearly everyone working in DC politics, she's had a slew of jobs in her short professional career ranging from lobbyist for a non-profit, to working in local electoral politics, to working on the failed primary campaign of one of Martha Coakley's Democratic opponents, to of course working in the DCCC. Throughout the whole Q&A session you could just tell how much she loves what she does and how passionate she is about working in politics, and she said something to us at the end that really resonated with me...

She said something along the lines of, "I want to be clear: everyone thinks politics is so dirty, but it's absolutely not. These public servants truly are incredible people who really do want to do good things for people, but they work in a tough climate with even tougher media coverage." She talked about how all you hear in the news is coverage of the stymied healthcare bill, but no one's mentioning how the House has passed over 200 bills already, many of which had strong bipartisan support. She emphasized how the media creates a huge disconnect between reality and rhetoric, which obviously makes her job of getting incumbents re-elected an uphill battle.

For the first time I really did start to consider the disproportionate emphasis the media gives to failed legislation in comparison to successful legislation...all the "less sexy" bills so to speak that were passed when the country was distracted by the healthcare debate...200+ important laws that have positively impacted us in ways we don't even realize.

Rewind a few weeks back to when we met with a couple members from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, a small oversight and investigation team composed of legislative experts and lawyers who epitomize all that is good and righteous about politics. Unbeknownst to us, their investigations make our lives safer and healthier, and protect us from consumer fraud. They told us about a case they'd just finished that stopped this huge ring of aggressive sales tactics on the internet that had tricked tons of innocent and clueless consumers into losing literally billions of dollars through pop-up ads. Another speaker we had earlier this week was a Special Assistant to the President on the Domestic Policy Council. She talked about all the little projects her team works on that also get absolutely no media coverage, things like Obama's pet project on Responsible Fatherhood. When have you EVER heard about these things? You just don't.

Meeting all these people involved in politics and public policy out here in DC is truly a wake-up call. There are SOO many people out here who have dedicated their lives to public service, and really are working hard for us, and in many ways are quite successful. Sure there seems to be a myriad of overwhelming problems the government hasn't yet been able to fix, but why is this ALL we ever hear about? The system absolutely could be working more smoothly, I'm sure everyone in it wishes it was, but the truth is it's not as gridlocked as the media portrays it be. And I get it, I'm a broadcast journalism student so I know that government success is not as juicy of a story as government failure, constituent anger, and partisan cat fights; but it seems to me that the media does an extraordinarily poor job of accurately reflecting the truths of federal government. The only way to really know what goes on out here in DC is to see it first hand, all sides of it, and form your own opinions.

I still believe journalists have the ability to be the Good Guys and often times are, but for the first time I'm starting to see how they (we) can also be the Bad Guys, and keeping myself open to the possibility of switching teams. 

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