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Make It About Debate, Not The Press

Jay Rosen yesterday posted an argument that the Sunday morning talk shows need a change, but unfortunately his change is an admitted cosmetic one. His advice: fact checking. “Sadly, you’re a one-way medium,” I said to Fischer, “but here’s an idea for ya: Fact check what your guests say on Sunday and run it online Wednesday.” While fact checking would be a good twist to how the shows are now run, the change these shows need to take is more drastic: get rid of the press.

To combat today’s vitriolic Washington, we need communication. We need debate. Instead of having journalists on a show (and it’s always the second part of the show) and instead of having political leaders come on for a half hour and be guided by journalists who don’t ask the right questions, why not have, each week, a 1-hour debate between our elected officials. We could implement the Wednesday Fact Check, but we’d also be able to hold our elected officials to what they’re saying in the debate.

This could foster dialogue between parties and politicians. Who knows, maybe the electorate could pay attention and become more politically savvy. Instead of relying on the press to analyze what politicians are saying, why not just have the politicians themselves spend their Sunday mornings discussing and debating issues of the week

First, we would get to know politicians better. Ask people in your office or building to name their 2 Senators. Ask your parents to name their Representatives. Having them on TV every week – and followed up by continued dialogue online – would give them more exposure and allow us, the public, to understand them better and maybe even understand government better

Second, we would get to know the issues at a higher level. Would you rather hear from the source or from second hand? If members of both houses of Congress had to debate on national TV every week, they would actually have to have read a bill (or at least get some great notes from their aides). They then would, by the very nature of a debate, be able to explain their position on why an issue was important, as well as deconstructing the issue itself. This would let the public get a better sense of a wide range of topics.

Again, imagine being able to hold a politician to their words. This is the marketplace of ideas in action: the best policy will occur based on the competition of multiple viewpoints and ideas during transparent public discourse.

So instead of having the pugilistic press discussing the inner workings of Washington, let’s have the inner Washingtonians, the policy makers and the lawmakers debate and raise the level of discourse. At the very least, it will give Jon Stewart some great material each week.

About joshsternberg

Josh Sternberg is the content strategist for The Washington Post. Prior to that he was the media reporter for Digiday. Additional bylines include: The Atlantic, The Awl, Pacific Standard, Mashable, Huffington Post, Mediaite.


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