Politics and media: focus on content

Geschreven door Frank Nuijens

16 januari 2022

It is to be hoped that the freshly appointed ministers and state secretaries in the Netherlands are less concerned with image than with the content of their work. But I hope that the media will also take responsibility in this process.

“It is to be hoped that the freshly appointed ministers and state secretaries are less concerned with image than with the content of their work. This also applies to the members of Parliament. Worrying about how something will come across and how the public will be taken in dominates the political work far too much”, writes Carla Joosten in EW Magazine.

Hear, hear. It has annoyed me for years that members of the government and parliament allow themselves to be governed so much by supposed images. But I miss the self-reflection of Ms Joosten and her colleagues in this opinion piece. I hope that not only politicians, but also the media – political editors in particular – will take responsibility in this process.

It is the House of Representatives that has been elected by the people to monitor the government on their behalf, not journalism. Policy makers should answer to parliament in the first place, not to journalists. But the roles seem to have been reversed more and more in recent years. Of course, the Lower House should take its role and not, like the government, try to score points through the media and think in terms of election deadlines instead of deadlines that social problems call for.

This shortcoming is also noted within journalism. For example, the British science journalist Tom Chivers concludes in a recent podcast that in England the political journalists attending the corona press conferences seem more keen to trip up ministers than to give their readers and viewers sound and useful information. To know that the situation in the Netherlands is not very different, you only have to listen to the questions of journalists after an average corona press conference.

Restoring the sick dynamic between politics and media is, in my opinion, the key to restoring society’s trust in politics and requires both politics and journalism to take responsibility. After all, today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s litter box. Or as Carla Joosten puts it: “Leave the delusion of the day for what it is: a delusion.”

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