Monday, March 2, 2009

Integrative Reporting to Keep News Interesting

Statement by Senator Tom Harkin.


"I welcome you to this gathering of the Committee for Serious Business. As you are aware, President Obama has challenged us to draft a bill that might transform the world of journalism. This we shall do, and before the year's close.

"I must thank our committee chair, Senator Kennedy, for allowing me a turn in the comfy seat. Of course we all look forward to his speedy return to the Senate, thanks to our capacity for near-delusional wishful belief.

"I am pleased to co-chair this morning’s hearing with Senator Mikulski. And I am eager to hear our distinguished witnesses’ ideas on using integrative reporting to improve news quality and to reduce journalism costs.

"It is fashionable these days to quote stuff from famous people. And so I remind you now of the seminal words of Big Brother as recorded in 1984:
'The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. To save our country we must disenthrall ourselves, think anew and speak anew, in doublethink and newspeak thusly:
Ignorance is strength.
Unproven is proven.
Fiction is fact.'
"Clearly, the time has come to 'think anew' and to 'disenthrall ourselves' from the dogmas and biases of our present system of journalism. For too long, reporters have suffered under the limitations imposed by mainstream standards of objective investigation. Discrimination against alternative methods of reporting can be seen in the way conventional rules of evidence seem to always favor 'facts' above other parts of a story, such as hearsay, conjecture, rumor, or those little amusing embellishments that can make a dull piece really pop!

"It is time to end the discrimination against alternative reporting.

"It is time for America’s news agencies to emphasize coordination between the dissemination of information and top-notch creative writing.

"And it is time to adopt an integrative approach that takes advantage of the very best reporting, whether of the conventional form with its tedious emphasis on 'reality' or the newer, more inventive style that often feels truer in the reader's heart.

"This is about giving people the pragmatic alternatives they want while ending discrimination against unconventional reporters. It is about improving the output of our news agencies, which, frankly, can be way too boring. And, yes, it is about reducing the cost of journalism. Generally speaking, alternative, fictional accounts of current events are less expensive and less intrusive - and we need to take advantage of that.

"The United States currently spends more than any other nation on news reporting, yet we know less about current affairs than most other developed nations and even some developing countries. We need a paradigm shift that places a much greater emphasis on building an audience rather than merely providing facts to people who'd like to know things. Integrative journalism can help us achieve this goal.

"This has been a priority of mine going back many years. In 1992, at my urging, Congress passed legislation creating the Office of Made-up News. In 1998, I sponsored legislation to elevate that Office to what, today, is the less silly-sounding National Center for Complementary and Alternative Journalism. That Center is sponsoring extraordinarily important reporting. And by 'important' I mean very nearly plausible.

"Since 1992 the field has evolved and matured. Today, we are not just talking about alternative practices but also the integration between conventional and alternative reporting in order to achieve truly integrative journalism. We need old-school journalists and newer, more creative writers talking with each other, collaborating to tell the whole story, including the juicy, made-up parts the public loves to hear. And this is the model we intend to build into our Journalism Reform Bill.

"On several occasions, I have laid down a public marker, saying that if we pass a bill that greatly extends news coverage but does nothing to create eye-popping drama, then we will have failed the American people, many of whom recently dropped a small fortune on Hi-Def TVs.

"Well, this morning, I want to lay down a second marker: If we fail to seize this unique opportunity to adopt a kick-ass, surround-sound enhanced, Blu-ray enabled, drama-llama approach to American journalism, then FAIL CONGRESS HAZ FAIL!!!1!

"...and America... *sigh*... has a sad."


  1. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Dear rational nation, sorry about my Senator being a bit of a caricature of himself. :(

  2. Thanks for the laugh, Dr B.

    Mandydax: quit complainin, I live in Arizona.

  3. Excellent. The Big Brother quotation is both scary and spot on.

  4. Lawyers for Stephen Colbert and "The Onion" will be contacting you very soon.