August 05, 2004

D.C. Press Corps: We Don't Cover Reality

The American Journalism Review follows up yesterday's release of a study at the Unity convention showing that the Washington press corps is almost as white as 1700 Pennslyvania Ave. with a story looking for reasons why that is the case.

Other than what what I mentioned yesterday -- mostly white newsrooms are going to produce mostly white national correspondents -- a couple of other causes surface, including the perceptions by some editors that minorities are not interested in the government bear and, tellingly, the fading allure among all journalists of covering Washington.

Doyle McManus, the Los Angeles Times' bureau chief, elaborates:

"There are a lot of reporters who, for perfectly good reasons, would rather be writing features for a style section, would rather be doing first-class street reporting off a city desk, would rather be a foreign correspondent, would rather be a lot of other things than Washington correspondents. Foreign correspondents cover reality. Washington correspondents cover policy. Sometimes those two intersect, but rarely. We don't cover real people. We cover what bureaucrats say and think and what they say they think, but hardly anybody ever throws a punch. We cover words on paper and words on background. And not everybody wants to do that."

I suppose I could argue that it is the job of journalists, should they wish to engage readers, to convert policy into reality.

Posted by Tim Porter at August 5, 2004 08:33 AM