Idea for News TV Show: The Accountability Board

General idea:

The show will feature a panel of journalists and pundits that represent at least the left and right. Panelists, lead by a moderator, will discuss issues, giving everything from general remarks, analysis, predictions, etc. Some of these remarks will be summarized and put on a large board–picture a table with the top row featuring the names and pictures of each pundit, one per column. In the rows below, there will be a list of questions or issues. In the pundits column we will see some of their comments and/or a summary of their comments.

One of the main effects of the show I’d like to see is the reputations of pundits becoming linked to the degree to which their analysis and comments are reasonable, logical, and fair. Ultimately, the rewards should come in the form of improved reputation and status, while punishments should have the opposite effect–e.g., the reputations of those who make outrageous comments, lie, etc. will take a big hit.

One format I’d like to use on the show is to present at least two types of narratives or theories about an individual or situation. For example, with Trump, the great dealmaker who Washington hates because he’s crude outsider that has made them look foolish, might be one theory. The other theory is that Trump is a conman, who only cares about enriching himself. Pundits will all stake their reputations on their positions of each theory. As new information comes in, the pundits can adjust their position. In these reviews, the moderator can bring up previous comments made by the pundits–both positive and negative. One variation is the entire panel can also vote on whether an individual pundit is being reasonable, operating in good faith, etc. And these comments can also be put on the accountability board as well. Basically, the idea is to hold a pundit accountable for their public statements.

5 thoughts on “Idea for News TV Show: The Accountability Board

  1. Benjamin Wittes has a really good article on AG Bill Barr’s performance with regard to the Mueller Report. He says something at the end that presents a situation that I’d like to see in the news program I’ve described above. Here’s what Wittes says:

    It may be the case that Barr knows that he’s spinning, and that he’s doing it—having had his soul eaten by Trump “in small bites,” in Comey’s poetic formulation—to preserve his position in the mad king’s court.

    But we should also consider what is perhaps a scarier hypothesis: What if Barr actually believes it all? That is, what if he has sufficiently become a creature of the factual ecosystem of Trump’s support that he truly believes that the real problem here was not a president who accepted (noncriminally, of course) assistance from a hostile foreign power during his campaign, lied serially about it, and tried repeatedly to frustrate investigation of his conduct? What if Barr actually believes that closing a criminal case on these matters is the end of the historical conversation, as well as the end of the criminal conversation? What if he is actually untroubled by the substance of what Mueller reported and, like Rudy Giuliani, believes it’s okay for presidential candidates to take “dirt” from foreign governments on their rivals and okay for presidents to call up investigations of those rivals? What if he really believes that the true problem here was the investigators?

    In the program, I would list these questions on an large board or screen, in a position where both the audience and panelists can see it. Each panelists would then state their answer or position on each question–“I believe/don’t believe that the bigger problem is Trump accepted assistance from a hostile foreign power,” etc. They can also provide more nuance and circumspection, and this can be noted, but I would highlight when pundits are more emphatic and definitive. Panelists would then see their responses go up under their names. This should make them all cognizant that their words on the record, for all to see and evaluate, and can and will be brought up at some point for the purposes of accountability. I would love if the Bill Barr could be a guest panelist and provide answers to these questions.

    Perhaps another board could show at least two of the different emerging narratives. This board will place both narratives next to each other, making comparisons easier and clearer. Each narrative would include the following: a description of the narrative, the evidence and arguments that support the narrative, and the pundits who support them.

    At the end of each show, the moderator can review the boards. Pundits can modify their claims and and also change their positions, if they choose. But a record can be kept of the original positions and the changes the pundits make to them. (This can be done at the beginning of the show as well.)

    (Maybe a third screen or chart can have an overall evaluation of the reliability of each pundit, which will be something that can change over time.)

    My sense is that this approach would foster more care and thought from pundits with regard to their positions and words, and that would be a really good thing.


    Here’s another example of claims and narratives that can be examined on the program:

    Greenwald makes several claims and present an overarching narrative here that I think should be put on the accountability board–specifically the one that has two competing narratives next to each other. One part of this narrative is that Trump opponents are worried that Barr/DOJ will reveal inappropriate actions by the FBI–specifically the way they started and conducted the investigation. This is a serious charge. Put this up on the board, and over time, as we get more information, then everyone can see for themselves which narrative/claims are credible. If those who support more extreme claims turn out to be baseless and false, the credibility and reputation of these individuals should take a hit.


    Another example.

    Hume should clarify what he means or concede that he was wrong. And if he doesn’t, his reputation and credibility should take a hit. But my sense is that on twitter, pundits can make bad claims and those claims just disappear into the ether–and very little seems to happen to his reputation. But if these claims were collected on something like an accountability board, then it would just disappear. If this were to happen, I would guess pundits would be more careful, thoughtful, and reasonable in their comments.


    Other examples:

    These claims feel like challenges to me. OK, Mr. President, if these are your claims, let’s put them under the microscope, let’s put them through a rigorous test, which will involve smart, reasonable people representing different parts of the political spectrum.

    And under my format, we’d rigorously test the opposite claim–that there was collusion, there was obstruction, and a crime. And let the public decide which claims seem more likely and true.

    (Another idea I had: If I were making a documentary, I would go to the smartest, most credible advocates of each and allow them to make their case. Part of the documentary could possibly include filming and interviewing a group of people watching and reacting to the film. Oh, including the people who were in the film to watch with others and answer their questions might be really interesting as well. Another idea is to show each advocate the board–where they can see read their own words.)

  2. Another way of applying an accountability board.

    People complain about Trump supporters who appear on CNN. Create a an accountability board for all the pundits that appear. If any of them behave in bad faith, tell lies, act unreasonably, they can track this on the accountability board and at some point use this as justification to not bring them on. The accountability board can also be a justification for featuring certain pundits–that is, those that do well.

    (I have a feeling CNN would not like doing this as they prefer to feature Trump supporters, as it protects them from bias and helps the bottom line. The accountability board could make this more apparent.)

  3. Variation: TV Series or Documentary

    Idea: Create an audience to watch the program and track the way their opinions, impressions, and understanding change over time. That is, create a 10-20 episode series, in which a group of citizens will watch each episode. And then track the way their views and understanding changes over time.

    I’d prefer if the majority of the audience were made up of people who really don’t follow the news closely. In general, I tend to think these people are more moderate and more open-minded, less hardened in their political views. I’d be mildly interested in seeing the way more partisan, extreme individuals respond to watching the program over time, but my guess is that it would be less interesting. Then again a mix of these individuals with more open-minded ones might be interesting.

    1. I’m skeptical about this, for a variety of reasons. I prefer the idea of having reasonable, smart journalists, representing different parts of the political spectrum, using deliberation to identify consensus. Credder is more about aggregating responses from a large pool of people–some of whom may not be real (bots), or operate in good faith. It’s not clear this group would represent different parts of the political spectrum relatively equally as well.

      Do you prefer the Credder approach? And if so, I’d be interested in hearing your reasons for that.

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