Nico Pitney Knows Politics

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The journalistic field ain’t what it used to be…
I may answer my own question and say “no,” but do you think there could be backlash against the 24-hour news cycle and that direction of pop news?

Well, there certainly is some backlash – people write about it – but, you know, networks and cable stations have the resources to do the kind of reporting that ordinary citizens can’t do. Despite any backlash, they’re still incredibly vital, so I don’t think backlash will lead to major consequences. But, on the other hand, MSNBC, for example, has a big success with Keith Olbermann providing a progressive voice on television, and they’ve learned from that and now they’re duplicating it on other programs.

Also, having a progressive or subjective political perspective is necessary to create a narrative that a viewer can relate to and you have to – I was speaking to Rachel Maddow and she said that political analysis is inherently emotional. Do you agree?

I mean, in the strict sense of “emotional,” then yes. If people are generalizing something and providing their own views – it’s tough to, especially when your professional career is wrapped up in these issues, it’s hard to separate your own feelings. I know some journalists make every effort to separate themselves and try to stay balanced, but it’s virtually impossible to do. So, yeah, I think there’s a close pairing there.

I believe it was last week or the week before, but the Washington Times recently decided to not put gay marriage in quotation marks. And obviously the word “homosexual” is outdated. I think about this a lot, because I don’t know how many times a day I say or write “gay,” and it gets tiresome. How important to you, personally, is it that there are standards of what a social group is called? Obviously we can’t have papers calling gay people “faggot,” but do we need to have these strict regulations?

I think typically news organizations ought to use terms that are accurate and not offensive. Beyond that, the individuals or the groups that the phrase is describing should have a say. If there’s a variety of terms that are both accurate and not offensive, then they ought to have a say in which one is used, if they prefer one over the other. I think it’s a good thing that the Washington Times changed their standards – they have a new executive editor there who wants to take steps away from their current niche, which is being right wing newspaper – and that’s a good sign. I think that it’s tough to describe different groups and it’s important to find out which terms are politically correct, but I think the most important individuals to weigh in on that are the ones being described.

Speaking of the right wing, do you think that the conservative movement can last for much longer? William F. Buckley’s dead, John McCain obviously is not as conservatives as some previous Republican leaders. What are we seeing in the conservative movement right now? It seems to me that it’s losing a lot of its hot air.

I would say that a lot of Republican voters around the country are not dedicated conservatives who care so much about Buckley and that particular ideology of movement leaders. Like Democrats, they have their team and they vote for the head of their team. With John McCain, they may end up supporting him as much as they did Bush in 2000 and 2004. On the other hand, I think the movement leaders, I think they’ll be able to come together for McCain in the general election. I don’t think that will be much of a problem.

The real potential for division there is if he becomes president. He’s increasingly not voting in the Senate, he’s only really going to be forced to talk about – it’s his agenda, it’s his campaign. The issues that he’s going to be challenging the Democratic nominee aren’t the ones that the the base are interested in – they all agree with him on the issues that he’s using to attack the Democrats. When he’s president, then – it’s like the Harriet Miers thing or other decisions for which the conservatives really fought under Bush and it ended their love affair with him. For Bush, it took years and years for that happen. For McCain, in the first week, there are so many decisions that he’s going to have to make that have the potential to split that base.