Politics: Who are the Watchdogs?

Story by Megan Hulet

In today’s society, the media plays a vital role in political reporting.
Susan Tolchin, professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University said, “It is an interesting time to be in the business…there is a lot more personality.”
Tolchin, along with John Daley, reporter for Deseret News/KSL and Matt Canham, Salt Lake Tribune Washington correspondent, comprised the panel for the Friday, Oct. 28 event, ‘Political Reporting and the Fourth Estate:  Who is actually watching the Government?’  This event was held in the Hinckley Caucus Room.
With so much technology available there is a much broader focus available to all audiences.  In politics, this is becoming a concern in that, who is actually watching the government, and who is checking the facts?
Daley stated “I worry that people of your generation will be much more worried about who’s winning on Idol rather than life changing events.”
In government, there are many aspects for reporters to cover.  One of the main events is the election process.  Is the election being covered properly or is it turning more into horse-race coverage?  The term horse-race coverage means covering only candidates’ standings in polls and ignoring their stance on issues.  Daley said this type of coverage is a “huge disrespect to politics…it’s like you’re watching coverage of the NFL.  These men and women in politics have much more important decisions to make than who is ahead and who’s not.”
Political leaders do not always want to share what is going on in their lives, whether personally or professionally, making it hard for reporters to get the information they need.  Do the media move well with political leaders or not?  The relationship between the two sometimes is fraught with tension.
Canham stated, “Be a watch-dog, but be fair and accurate to report well.  If there is a story to cover then you cover it; sometimes you will get a reputation, but you hope in the long run it will be a mutual respect in the end.”
So where do reporters draw the line when it comes to what’s interesting and what should be kept private when it comes to personal lives?
Tolchin said, “A person’s character is its fate.”  It is up to journalists to weigh what is relevant and what is not, but the line is usually drawn when it is relevant to that person’s job.
The last question of concern is how to discern information through journalism by blogs, e-mails, etc.  There are so many blogs available today and all with different opinions about politics.
Daley said, “Don’t change your view points.”  Although there are a lot of blogs, most do not follow journalism.
There are many resources available to all audiences.  Take advantage of this technology and stay caught up on what is really important in life.
Daley said, “With fewer watchdogs, there is a greater chance for mischief.”
Aubree Foster, a student at Weber State said the following concerning the seminar, “I thought it was very interesting.  I am an aspiring journalist and I am excited to think of what it holds for my future.  I am pumped to get out there and cover stories.”
Jessica Blake, a student at the University of Utah said, “I thought is was cool.  It was nice to have people who are experienced; nice to have a lot of audience participation.”