, 42 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
Maybe the Mueller hearing needed digital fur technology to be considered serious by the DC press corps
Here is what should happen: Every editor in chief of a major publication should gather their political reporting teams this week and do a very deep performance review of themes, reporting and staffing.
This is a massive ongoing catastrophe in journalism, a slow-motion car crash of failed ethics and corrupt news judgment. It's been going on for four years, getting progressively worse, and it's hurting both media and the country.
You're hearing this same sentiment from so many of us who have had journalism careers. @soledadobrien @dcbigjohn @dangillmor and so many more. This is not a joke. Political coverage in the US in a crisis. It is failing.
Here's what needs to happen

1. Get all your political reporters and editors off social media. All of them. There's real evidence that they cannot decide what a story is until they see their friends talking about it on Twitter. This is bad journalism. They should be making calls.
2. Any pitch that involves "Twitter" should be banned. Whether it's about Trump, AOC or Pelosi or anyone else. Twitter is not a valid US policy platform. It is a marketing platform.
3. Stop covering politics as marketing and optics and polls. That's outdated 1990s Rahm Emanuel thinking, it's washed up and more importantly, it was created when cable news was the only funnel. It's absolutely useless now that politics has multiple distribution vectors.
3a. How on earth are you going to straight-facedly write a hot take about "optics" in 2019? In 1999 it was optics on cable TV. Now "optics" means nothing. Optics where? Twitter? Facebook? Cable? Sunday shows? Town halls? Snapchat? There. Are. No. Unified. Optics.
3b. Optics+theater are not politics, they're advertising. Do you have political reporters, able to do the hard work of policy and sourcing? Or do you have advertising reporters reviewing House bills like Super Bowl commercials? Real advertising reporters are more rigorous, FYI.
4. Political sourcing is a disaster right now and needs a clean sweep, both of sources and of methods. EICs and political editors should work with reporters to comb source lists and find the weak spots. Why so many centrists? Why does every story sound like Rahm Emanuel wrote it?
4a. Where are the progressive sources? Where are the conservative sources? (Not Lindsey Graham blathering in favor of fascism, but real discussions of the collapse of conservative values and groupthink). Nowhere. That's why reporters are on Twitter instead of building sources!
4b. Sourcing methods. There's a whole generation of political reporters right now who never learned how to make phone calls and do in-person reporting. They show up at events and they email (!!!!) and DM people they want to talk to, who are mostly oleaginous comms people.
4b (contd) The core problem is that a lot of political reporters right now don't know how to *report.* How to get multiple sides, report *around* an unwilling subject, how to subject claims to rigor and skepticism instead of blandly and idiotically parroting them.
4b (contd) They are also lazy AF. They consider showing up in a room with other reporters - the WH press room, the WH pool, the Mueller hearing - to be hard work. Sitting on your ass hearing what everyone else can hear is not hard work. It's minimal presence. Hard work is context
4b contd Hard work means talking to a LOT of people. Not the one comms dude who takes your call. 10-15 people for a decent news story. 40 or more for a feature. Right now we're seeing two-source stories consistently -- the journalism MINIMUM. It's insufficient in complex times.
4b contd Why don't any political reporters talk to constituents regularly? I mean yes we saw a lot of airlifts of political reporters for those "economic anxiety" stories about white supremacism (which were wrong) but why don't we hear how much Pelosi's district hates her?
4b contd. After the comb-thru of source lists, there should be active work on expanding sourcing. One new source a week, and not one that your political-reporter friends have. Talking to the same people results in writing the same stories. And lazy takes like "optics."
5. After/alongside the sourcing expansion, there needs to be a serious revisiting of journalism ethics around access and independence. The current press corps in DC is all infected with Politico's old culture: sharp elbows, bullying high-school dynamics, and gossip-as-news
5a. Politico works great ONLY for Politico readers. It is a trade publication for political insiders. Those methods and news judgment DO NOT TRANSLATE to national publications. What is news for lobbyists is useless for the electorate. This should be obvious...but somehow isn't?
5a. A lot of political editors think the key to "scoops" is hiring from Politico. It's not. Those Politico scoops are incremental and for experts; they do not stand up on a national level. Hire Politico people if you want to but you MUST retrain them in *national* news judgment.
5a contd This is a crucial point, because it goes to audience. The Politico audience cares about polls because THEY are the pollsters. A voter is not served by hot takes on optics. It's alienating and useless for voting decisions. The world is not the DC popularity contest.
5b. It is absolutely necessary for EICs to take your political teams aside and train them in the details of WHO YOUR READERS ARE. Their income, their jobs, their preferred methods of reading news. If you don't, your reporters will serve the DC bubble.
6. But seriously: Get your reporters off Twitter. They are disgracing themselves, political journalism, and journalism in general. Twitter has become a crutch for them to avoid the hard work of journalism just when the country needs them most. Set a limit on Twitter hours.
That's it. This is a journalism crisis. Mueller said yday that Russians are *currently* meddling in the 2020 election and news just came out that Russians messed with *all 50 states* in 2016 but all your political reporters are writing about optics. You gotta clean up this act.
Oh and someone reminds me:

7) Stop covering the horse race. First, it's always wrong (the horse race missed AOC entirely and she's setting the tone for the whole House now.) Second, the horse race distracts from the real work of deciding who's winning. Farmers? Bankers? Who?
8.) A lot of the truly bad and embarrassing takes from political reporters yesterday said the Mueller hearing was "boring." I think this is part of the core problem causing bad political coverage: Reporters believe substance is boring, optics provide Cats-style razzmatazz.
8) (contd) In fact, politics is NOT boring. Policy is NOT boring. Politics is the story of human striving. It's the story of how we build our societies and what humans in 2019 think society should look like. It's rich in wins, losses, big things at stake, lives on line.
8) If you can look at all THAT --A country struggling with self-determination, people who died in camps because they wanted freedom and got sickness and torture instead, people without voices suddenly speaking -- and say "oh but optics" then leave journalism entirely pls.
8) Even in the stories of politicians, what's at stake? How did Pelosi get a reputation as a feminist despite consistently undermining women? How did Mitch McConnell grasp power and never let go? Why is a whole country dependent on the will of two people?
8. This. Is. Our. Future. As. Humans. There is no story as important as the political story, and there is no journalism as trifling and petty and meaningless and careless as the US political journalism we have now. It is bloodless, meaningless, cold, useless.
8. Every reporter should read Faulkner's Nobel Prize speech. He talks about what makes a story: "The old verities and truths." Pity and pride and compassion and honor and sacrifice. But reporters are writing defeats in which no one loses anything of value

Politics right now is the biggest story in American history since the Civil War. It's corruption, treason, cyberwar, racial hatreds, women and POC finding a voice and real power for the first time in decades.

And the DC press corps is completely fucking up the assignment.
Political reporters and editors don't see this. If they did, they'd have fixed it. So every -- EVERY-- EIC needs to do a good-faith audit and plan for how things can work better. Or else we're walking into disaster and the DC media is giggling "let them eat cake!" as we do.
I'm sure a lot of political reporters will get salty. It's not fun to hear you're screwing up. But I offered suggestions on how to address it, and I hope to God, and for all of our sakes, that you guys log off Twitter and consider a more productive approach. It's necessary now.
This is a good read but guess who makes a cameo? Why is Rahm Emanuel in every political story still? Is it 1999?

I am serious: I think the toxic political style of Rahm Emanuel is the defining political struggle in Democratic politics. People can reject him or accept him but he's the one everyone has to react to.
I've been banging on about this for years, apparently. I wrote for @NiemanLab back in 2014 abt being wary of social media's hold over news:

"We have become supplicants to other platforms in order to get our readers. That’s going to be a bigger problem."

Here's a short essay I did about compassion in journalism, for the Sunday Longread (created by @DVNJr)

Maybe I should fire up my old newsletter, lol.
Just going to point out that Rahm Emanuel also made an appearance in that dismal Maureen Dowd column about the guillotines. I hope someone is working on a Grand Unified Theory of Rahm Emanuel in the Current Centrist Democratic Mythos
Rahm Emanuel took the Democratic Party and remade it in his own corrupt and snide and decadent image, and the country's been suffering ever since
It could have been anyone but it was Rahm Emanuel. That's so odd. Why a washed-up political adviser and failed politician who destroyed one of the great American cities? Why do Dems continue to grant him, a gleefully amoral and destructive man, such deep moral authority?
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