Thursday, 30 September 2004

Choosing not to be spun

Here’s one for the “credit where credit is due” department: New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney won’t be partaking of Spin Alley after the debate tomorrow night, a move applauded by Ryan Pitts of The Dead Parrot Society and Jay Rosen. I agree with both; in fact, I’d almost take it a step further. Ryan writes:

A debate like this is supposed to be about the candidates persuading the voters, each of whom needs to individually assess whose policies and attitudes they’d like to see for the next four years.

Ryan emphasizes the word voters, but I almost think the emphasis should be on the phrase individually assess. Spin, “news analysis,” and the like tend to get in the way of that process, rather than informing it. So my advice to voters would be to watch the debate, and then switch off your TV and not read the reports and op-eds about it the next few days. And, if you can’t spare the time, then reading the reports and op-eds (and blog posts!) is worthless anyway—the entire point of the debate process is to give unfiltered insights into the candidates, and putting an interlocutor between yourself and the candidates will distort the image.

In fairness to Ryan, he’s speaking from the journalist’s perspective—but choosing not to be spun is something the voter can do just as easily. Switching off Matthews or Hannity or Crossfire is just as important for the voter as Nagourney avoiding “spin alley” is for the reporter.