“Making it harder to vote, and harder to understand what the party is really about — these are two parts of the same project” for the Republican Party, Jay Rosen writes. “The conflict with honest journalism is structural. To be its dwindling self, the G.O.P. has to also be at war with the press, unless of course the press folds under pressure.”
Rosen is a professor of journalism at N.Y.U., author of the blog “PressThink,” and one of America’s sharpest contemporary media critics. And his argument is a simple one: The media’s implicit model of American politics — of two coequal parties with competing governing philosophies — is fundamentally broken. Today, the most important axis of political conflict is not between left and right, but between pro- and anti-democracy forces.
The way Rosen sees it, the American mainstream press must make a choice: Will it double down on its commitment to detached, nonpartisan neutrality? Or will it choose instead to boldly and aggressively defend truth and democracy?
These days, Rosen’s view seems almost common-sensical. But he’s been critiquing “both sides” journalism — and the model of politics underlying it — for years now, long before such arguments came into vogue. As a result, he’s done some of the most original thinking about what an alternative model of journalism would look like, and wrestled with the inevitable political, social and economic tensions that come with it.
So this conversation is about what pro-democracy journalism could look like in practice and the thorny questions that this approach to coverage raises. But it also touches on the drawbacks of the press’s focus on Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema; how journalists should cover Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson; why Rosen believes “moderate” and “centrist” are “two of the most ideology-soaked terms” in political journalism; the consequences of an economy where political news has to compete for attention with Netflix, Xbox and TikTok; and why Substack and podcasting may hold one of the keys to restoring trust in the media.
This episode is guest-hosted by Nicole Hemmer, a historian whose work focuses on the right-wing media and American politics. She is an associate research scholar with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project at Columbia and author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.” You can follow her on Twitter @PastPunditry. (There’s more about the other guest hosts during Ezra’s parental leave here.)
(A full transcript of the episode is available here.)
“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.