Dan Froomkin in Salon:
It’s so nice to be here. I’m looking forward to working with all of you amazing reporters and editors. You’ve all shown you’re capable of incredible work, and I respect you enormously. But at the same time, my arrival here is an inflection point. It’s impossible to look out on the current state of political discourse in this country and believe we are succeeding in our core mission of creating an informed electorate. It’s impossible to look out at the looming and in some cases existential challenges facing our republic and our globe — among them the pandemic, the climate crisis, income inequality, racial injustice, the rise of disinformation and ethnic nationalism — and think that it’s OK for us to keep doing what we’ve been doing. So let me tell you a bit about what we need to do differently.
First of all, we’re going to rebrand you. Effective today, you are no longer political reporters (and editors); you are government reporters (and editors). That’s an important distinction, because it frees you to cover what is happening in Washington in the context of whether it is serving the people well, rather than which party is winning. Historically, we have allowed our political journalism to be framed by the two parties. That has always created huge distortions, but never quite as badly as it does today. Two-party framing limits us to covering what the leaders of those two sides consider in their interests. And, because it is — appropriately! — not our job to take sides in partisan politics, we have felt an obligation to treat them both more or less equally.
Both parties are corrupted by money, which has badly perverted the debate for a long time. But one party, you have certainly noticed, has over the last decade or two descended into a froth of racism, grievance and reality-denial. Asking you to triangulate between today’s Democrats and today’s Republicans is effectively asking you to lobotomize yourself. I’m against that.
In reality, the solutions we need — and, indeed, the American common ground — sometimes lie outside the current Democratic-Republican axis, rather than at its middle, which opens up a world of interesting avenues for real journalism. Defining our job as “not taking sides between the two parties” has also empowered bad-faith critics to accuse us of bias when we are simply calling out the truth. We will not take sides with one political party or the other, ever. But we will proudly, enthusiastically, take the side of wide-ranging, fact-based debate.