ERICKSON: Conservative journalism is failing

March 8, 2013 

Two nights ago, on my radio show in Atlanta, a man called in convinced that President Barack Obama would use drones on tea party groups in the United States. He really was worried about it.

Conservatives, formerly happy warriors, have gone off the deep end. I wrote the text below last week at RedState. Given that Wednesday night’s call this week, I think it is worth sharing here too.

I think conservative media is failing to advance ideas and stories. Certainly part of that is because the general media has an ideological bias against conservatives, which makes it harder for the media to take our views seriously. But many conservatives are, instead of working doubly hard to overcome that bias, are just yelling louder about the same things. The echo in the chamber has gotten so loud it is not well understood outside the echo chamber in the mainstream press and in the public. It translates only as anger and noise, neither of which are conducive to the art of persuasion.

Conservatives are trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial, we have forgotten the basics of reporting: W5 + H, as I learned in grade school, also known as who, what, where, when, why and how. I think conservatives need to reset some of their reporting resources to tell the stories that need to be told by focusing on the facts at hand in a world view of the right.

Conservatives need to establish a baseline for integrity in reporting that then allows us to highlight the truly outrageous. That baseline must be the basics of who, what, where, when, why and how, and it must be set before taking the next step into analysis of motivation and its implications.

The “Obamaphone” is a great example of this. Conservatives laughed out loud at the video of the lady saying Barack Obama had given her a phone. Conservatives used it as an example of all that was wrong with the expansion of the welfare state under Obama. What many conservatives missed was that the program was a pre-existing program. In fact, the “Obamaphone” idea goes back to the Reagan Administration, but the present program was implemented in 2008 when George W. Bush was president. Government funds are not even used directly.

Focus on the Obamaphone by conservatives missed a number of key points and, in not covering the basic facts, sent conservative activists down rabbit holes. It would have been helpful if conservative reporters spent more time laying out the basic who, what, where, when, why, and how of the issue before exploring the necessity of the program and the fact that there are Americans who credit Obama with giving them that phone.

There are scandals to uncover and there are outrageous stories to be outraged over, but I would submit conservatives are spending a lot more time trying to find things to be outraged over than reporting the news and basic facts online from a conservative perspective.

I just do not see the need to get outraged over things without first having all the facts at hand. Further, I do not see the need to get outraged over everything, when better targeting of stories that truly resonate would serve conservatives well.

Conservatives do their cause more harm than good if they get outrageously outraged over every slight and grievance. Yes, there is an institutional media bias against the right, but conservatives must also honestly acknowledge that conservatives have also screamed “wolf” these past few years. More often than not, there was no wolf to be found.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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