Beyond Politics and Punditry to the Common Good


Writing at her blog,, Farai Chideya weighs in on the importance of political punditry, saying that when done well, it can help us dig deeper into the many challenges that this enormous, diverse nation faces.

… The punditry game has changed. It always had an edge, or else it would be reportage and not punditry. But the signal to noise ratio has degraded appreciably over the past fifteen years. Some players, from both the left and right, aim to make their name by throwing out a fistful of steaming entrails and then immediately apologizing for the mess. What's not to like, as a strategy? You make headlines twice — once when you make the statement, and once when you apologize …

All punditry is theatre, on some level. But when it works — and I mean, works as news, not just as a vehicle to deliver partisan talking points — we can tease out nuances of the different challenges this enormous and diverse nation faces. The fact that the news media is based on the coasts ends up doing a great disservice to political media. Having traveled to Arizona to meet with a Tea Party group; gone out with the Border Patrol in Texas; and visited small farming towns in Iowa and Wisconsin, I see how differently Americans live life from other Americans. It is damned near impossible to wrap your arms around what America really is, especially from a perch in New York or the Beltway. But for fiscal and show-business reasons (punditry is way cheaper than reporting), we often get remote video or two-ways spoken-over by people in New York and DC. Ideally, punditry would be the spice on the meal, not the meal itself. It's the inversion of the role of punditry in the news industry that has degraded the art of political dialogue itself. Without a solid base in reporting, particularly regional reporting, it's hard to expect shows of talking heads to really illuminate the issues we face.

And frankly, what issues don't we face these days? We're facing a government debt cliff, an entitlements cliff, a personal debt cliff, an education cliff, a climate cliff, and if not an employment cliff, well then, a slippery slope. All of these issues require long-range thinking which is often antithetical to short-range partisan needs …


Read Farai Chideya's entire piece at

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