Sunday, August 21, 2011

Journalists Must Demand Political Answers

Posted by: Noël Jones

I am posting this interesting op-ed from The Morning Call, penned by Ken Sturzenacker, who, aside from being a regular commenter on this blog, is the former head of the Libertarian party for Pennsylvania. Regardless whether you share his political views or not, he makes really great points about the need for journalists and television moderators to demand answers from presidential candidates and
not let them get away with the "slight of tongue" that has become so commonplace in our media today. He also points out that many of these candidates are already in other offices, and they should not be able to get away with answers about what they would do about the economy and our national debt should they be elected president in 17 months, but rather what they are doing about it now.


Jon Geeting said...

It's a great point. This is something that the Morning Call is terrible at, especially their Washington correspondent Colby Itkowitz. She routinely takes politicians' talking points at face value, and never pushes them for specifics. Charlie Dent and Pat Toomey's get their statements covered uncritically, and never have any reason to fear that they will be asked follow up questions.

One sorry tradition that should end immediately is the practice of allowing politicians to submit op-eds. The politician op-ed is a useless document. It gives us no valuable information because it's framed in the most favorable possible terms. Any time politicians wants to communicate with the paper's readers, they should have to do it via a Q&A with the editorial board, who will be better prepared to challenge them on their facts and assumptions.

noel jones said...

Good point, Jon.

Personally, I want to see journalists and TV moderator's INSIST on answers or corner the person into admitting that they are not answering the question. I, too, am sick of journalists accepting talking points as answers, but I am even sicker of TV moderator's who are clearly trying to get credit for asking a follow-up question, but then fail to press, when the follow-up is dodged.

Dennis R. Lieb said...


To echo what you said about politician op-eds, we have a similar situation ongoing with Bruce Davis and the Rt 22 Coalition - a corporate and politically motivated, road expansion lobby. Sorry to veer from the topic, but he seems to have carte blanch access to 600 word rants whenever he feels its politically expedient.

The recent front page story on the (yet again) proposed expansion of 22 led to yet another guest appearance in the MCall by Davis, trumpeting the great news that expansion is back (maybe) on the PenDOT project chalkboard.

This was followed by a disgraceful and disingenuous op-ed by the E-T editorial staff, calling for expansion as soon as possible. Then, right in the middle of their opinion piece, they admit that it won't solve the problem and the new road will be filled with induced traffic in no time. Jeez, what an intelligent strategy to take: discredit your own op-ed.

Here's the deal. Rt 22 will never be expanded because we will never have the money to build it, never be able to relocate the existing businesses that hem it in along the proposed expansion route and never be able to afford to maintain it even if it were built. Someone, somewhere is buying votes with promises they can't keep.

I drive 22 daily and aside from a short peak rush, traffic is free-flowing at 55 mph. Congestion occurs for three major reasons: accidents, extreme weather and road construction. Additional lanes will not alleviate any of these issues. Even if they did, the short stretch of highway being expanded would cut mere seconds from the typical trip since most people now use it as a two or three exit shortcut to local destinations - not as a cross-country highway. What is the cost/benefit analysis of the average time savings to local users in exchange for the huge tax layout to build it?

If PenDOT were serious about congestion they could do a quick and inexpensive fix tomorrow: add traffic sensors to lanes in the busiest sections and reactivate the ramp meters. They shut these off after the most recent construction campaign and now claim they need to much maintenance to keep running. I think it's because certain people want to create an artificial congestion crisis where none exists.

There is one other way to reduce traffic on 22 instantly but it will not happen. Stop giving away parking at all the malls and shopping centers for free. If people had to actually pay the cost of all those lots being maintained, plowed, lighted and secured you would see a lot more discretion exercised on solo driving, redundant trips and - as a result - highway miles driven per capita. I expressed all of this in a response to the last LVPC Ten Year Transportation Update. They never responded