A Possible Blind spot for the Press

The following tweet resonated with me, and I wanted to comment on it:

Also: the most pervasive bias in political coverage is not left vs. right it’s “follows politics” vs. “doesn’t follow politics” By default, nearly everyone who covers politics falls into the “follows politics” category, which makes it really hard to understand people who don’t
What are possible ways the “follows politics” people (or news junkies, as I call them) have trouble understanding the “doesn’t follow politics” folks? Here are some thoughts off the top of my head
  1. The politics folks have better bearings in terms of whom to trust and not trust, because they consume a lot of news on a regular basis. Casual news consumers are less confident and rely more on heuristics like consensus between experts or the political parties. For example, something is true and/or important if both parties agree. A lack of consensus can lead to confusion–and I’m not sure the politics fully appreciate this.
  2. Relatedly, I think the politics folks may assume that the non-politics folks are ignorant and lacking in critical thinking–basically, not very intelligent–or at least I sense a tendency to assume that. My sense is that they assume this because, for them, certain issues and events are totally clear to them–they can’t imagine how it can’t be clear to others–unless these other people aren’t very bright.
  3. If one is not informed, they may assume that that is their fault–either they’re lazy or lacking in intelligence. To some degree there may be truth to this, but the other possibility, more likely in my view, is these other people are just not really into politics, and they have many other pressing needs. Thinking that all low-information voters are dumb and lazy feels a lot like thinking casual sports fans are dumb and lazy if they don’t know much about Xs and Os or statistics. Yes, all citizens should care about informing themselves, but not being a news junkie doesn’t mean they don’t care enough, or does it? If a healthy republic depends on all citizens being news junkies, then I’m wondering how we survived this long.
More later….

2 thoughts on “A Possible Blind spot for the Press

  1. (con’t)

    Someone on twitter (I can’t remember who) said that the biggest bias for journalists stems from people into the news and people who aren’t. The former can’t really understand the latter, and make errors because of this. I think the following tweet touches on this:

    Prediction: Nothing that was revealed today will make any difference to Trump supporters. All conversations taking place this election season are completely circular.— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) September 10, 2020

    Actually, I think her positions is shaped by spending a lot of time on twitter–specifically, politics twitter. But my guess is that 90% of the people on politics twitter are into the news (and politics). Among this group, I think her tweet is accurate. I would be shocked if there were significant numbers of news junkies who are undecided about Trump and don’t have strong feelings, one way or the other.

    But my sense is that outside of politics twitter, many people are not into the news, don’t have strong opinions, may be unaware and/or confused about many things that are happening in politics now. For these people, stories like today could potentially make a huge difference.

    I think the main reason it does not (besides the information not getting to these people) is the strong counter-narrative pushed by conservative news media and Republicans. If both were anti-Trump, I think Trump’s presidency would have been over a long time ago.

  2. I think this is another possible example. Nichols can’t imagine that there is an undecided voter now. I could be totally wrong, but I don’t find this too hard to believe. There could be someone who plans to vote–maybe because they know it’s the right thing–but they almost never pay attention to politics. These are the type of people who may be confused about what to believe. If these people don’t exist or their numbers are tiny that would surprise me.

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