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Politicus Pod
Our Broken Media: The Trifecta of Bad Incentives

Our Broken Media: The Trifecta of Bad Incentives

Sarah Jones talks with Kaivan Shroff about the threat the media poses to our democracy, digging into his concept of the "Trifecta of bad incentives."

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Today, we're going to be talking about the threat the media poses to our democracy, and how the media has become perhaps unintentionally complicit.

Sarah Jones: In this growing threat of autocracy, the media has been pushing false equivalencies and asymmetric coverage of, for example, the age of the 2 leading Presidential candidates: President Joe Biden, the Democrat, and former President Donald Trump, the Republican, the latter of whom has been criminally indicted on 91 counts, and recently found liable for sexual assault, and in a separate case for fraud.

Trump is also accused of inciting a terrorist attack against the United States in an attempted self coup to remain in power even after the people voted him out. In other words, it's very clear that these 2 candidates are not the same and even after it's become clear that Donald Trump and the Republican party, under his leadership, are harmful to the national security of the United States, and indeed, the very concept of the US. and her sacred freedoms, the media's will and capability to tackle encroaching autocracy remains distressing. Whether that's due to a corporate mindset, the for-profit news click bait or outdated an outdated method of journalism which is so easily exploited by dishonest actors, such as the he said/she said version of journalism.

But the bottom line is the media should be fair to the public and to the facts there is no obligation to present both parties as the same. Yet, even as the Republican party over the last decade has become more corrupt. The media continues to launder their misinformation and phony scandals, and it sure Democrats have been guilty of this as well, but just on a on a scale. This is largely benefiting the Republican Party.

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Joining me today to discuss this is Kaivan Schroff, a democratic political commentator and public interest attorney. He is a frequent guest on CNN. Tonight, and a press secretary for Dream America. Welcome to the Politicus Pod.

Kaivan Shroff: Great to join Sarah. I know we've been following each other for a few years. So glad to be on.

So good to have you, and I really can't wait to get into this. So you are an expert on this, and you've brought up a lot of thoughts about this. One of your concepts that you've mentioned many times is the that I want you to get into here, for our audience, is the “Trifecta of bad incentives: The book deals that cable news hits and going viral.” How do you see that as having degraded the Fourth Estate? And do you think it's gotten worse since 2016, or is it the same?

KS: Yes, so you know, I really focused on this for a project a capstone at Harvard Law School in the Kennedy school, where I was really focused on we had to pick a big public problem, and I thought one of the most timely public problems we face as a country in a democracy is clearly the decline of trust in our media. And also, I think, the the degradation of journalism. It's not just perception, of course.

So one of the things I tapped into was what I'm calling the trifecta of bad incentives. And this is something I think we saw very clearly during the trump era, but even started earlier, and what those incentives are, and you mentioned some of them social media fame going viral, I think, blurring the lines we've seen between influencers and journalists, and why that costs us trust at a accelerated rate.

Then number 2. All these book deals that it seems like reporters are more focused on than actually reporting. And even we've seen so many cases now where reporters are sitting on scoops of national importance so that they can save that for a book launch or a book tour, you know, a year plus later, what does that cost the public? And then, third, the cable news hits and wanting to be on TV and wanting to go viral again in those sort of reality. TV. Ask exchanges, making themselves the story. And I think you know, some of those moments were really positive. I think a lot of us fondly remember Jim Acosta standing up to bullies at the White House, you know. Press secretary Room. Briefing room, and, you know, going toe to toe with Sarah Sanders and Trump, who are lying to the public. But now that we do have trustworthy folks in those roles you still see some of the same behaviors where these reporters want to have that moment, and it's not necessarily in service of the truth. It's more in service of their agenda. So would love to get into all of that.

SJ: There's a great example. He is someone who is doing has been doing and continues to do a good job. He was standing up for the right for the press to ask these questions that he was trying to ask. But then I do see people trying to model themselves off of that, to have this moment where they're kind of shrieking at the Press Secretary, in hopes of getting attention for questions a lot of times not even based in reality, which I'm sad to say because I do support journalists. There's such a difference in the when we're talking about individual journalists. I think most of them have good intentions.

So that's part of the question, too. How does how do we get here where people are putting this, as you put it, this viral fame moment ahead of their own integrity.

The book deals. What a great point! Because over and over again these little nuggets of, ‘Oh, yeah, your country was at risk, and I held it for my book. Here we are, 2 years later.’ That does not inspire trust in people. And one of my concerns about the lack of trust in media is, ‘how many people have tuned out to politics altogether because of this media coverage?’

More in the pod!

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