A widening divide in the political parties is changing how journalists report on government affairs, according to Dan Balz, chief political correspondent at the Washington Post.
In a lecture titled “Red and Blue America: Politics and Journalism in a Divided Country,” Balz gave insight to the reasons for America’s growing partisanship including the decline in independent voters, shift in republican viewpoints and geographic polarization. Following his lecture Balz was presented the William Randolph Hearst Fellows Award by Glenn Frankel, director of the UT School of Journalism.
“Balz actually likes what he covers, and actually likes the people he reports on,” Frankel said. “When people ask me what I miss about working at the Post, it’s the colleagues, and the first that comes to mind is Dan Balz.”
During the talk, Balz said that although some division in political parties is normal and necessary, the current degree of division hurts government proceedings.
“As I traveled around the last three years covering the 2012 campaign I was struck more than ever by the passions of people either on the left or the right,” Balz said. “The degree to which they feared their candidate losing and the consequences the loss would bring was shocking.”
Balz said the party gap directly affects political journalists whose audiences, now more than ever, see news through a personal partisan lens.
“We can see and feel the impact of this polarization daily,” Balz said. “The cable-culture, the fragmentation of media, the growth of partisan media, the rise of social media — particularly Twitter — have all changed the way coverage of government and politics is done. It is a much more difficult environment that we operate in today.”
Balz said what we now have are parallel information sources that reinforce biases rather than challenge them.
“Fueled by the partisanship, it is now possible for people who hold one particular point of view to find and get information that only conforms to that view of the world, and accordingly there is much greater distrust of the media,” Balz said.
Journalism sophomore Hector Perez said he was glad to see attention brought to the lack of neutral news sources today and how it makes it more difficult to find information that depicts our government in its real state.
“Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, Rachel Maddow — that breed of journalism is spreading and with it misinformation,” Perez said. “The journalism that is to an extent neutral, to an extent objective, has taken a back seat and it is hurting our government and how democratic it can be.”