Sense of Omission

Since I just wrote about PRI’s The World’s routinely excellent global coverage I think it’s appropriate to point out where this kind of reporting isn’t adequate. Luckily I have former foreign policy adviser to the Edwards campaign Michael Signer to do it for me. (With a name like “Signer”, shouldn’t he be the presidential candidate? Or maybe he has a brother named “Bill”…)

His recent Washington Post commentary “It’s a Scary World, Don’t Campaign Reporters Care?” spanks the media for ignoring or only superficially covering the foreign policy positions of the candidates, even though such policy statements have (shocker!) proven historically to be accurate predictors of policy.

Interestingly, from a Public Radio point of view, he states the following:

In November, I got a call from a major national radio program saying that they’d be doing a substantive piece on the candidates’ foreign policies — how they were developed and what the process revealed about the candidates’ thinking.

Perfect! I thought. At last. I was in Iowa City and drove 45 minutes through blinding snow to a small studio for an hour-long interview. When the segment aired, my heart sank. It had changed into a quick-and-dirty recitation of a few policy proposals from all the candidates, Republican and Democrat — not the substantive compare-and-contrast that had been promised.

I can’t say for sure whether or not this was National Public Radio, but a little Googling strongly indicts a report by Martha Wexler on All Things Considered of December 9, 2007. Signer doesn’t even merit a sound-bite from his hour long interview.

Whatever the purpose of this NPR report, and however appropriate or not Signer’s interview was for that purpose, his point is very, very important. We live in extremely dangerous times. The entire news media, and Public Radio in particular, need to make international coverage a huge priority.

Take just one foreign policy example. I was sentient during the cold war and woke up sweating from my share of Terminator-style atom bomb nightmares, but I feel the US is at more risk of Nuclear attack then at any time in our history.

Sure, my opinion doesn’t matter, I’m just a grumpy blogger.

But what about this fact? Both Bush and Kerry, men who agree on little, were asked during a 2004 debate what the greatest threat facing our nation was, and both immediately responded “nuclear proliferation,” specifically nukes in the hands of terrorists. (Ok, Bush started to answer “Jesus” out of debate habit but then caught himself. And what he really said was “nukuler perlimifiration,” but the point remains.)

Am I the only one who remembers that? Am I the only one who actually believes it?

What has the Bush administration done about it since? Precisely nothing, as far as I can tell, but I can’t really be sure because the media barely covers it!

Note to the the media: stop waiting to cover problems only after they explode and try to do some predicting. I know it’s no fun to be Cassandra, but it is your chosen profession.

Case in point: Daniel Zwerdling on ATC did an unbelievably good job warning us about a Hurricane flooding catastrophe in New Orleans in a lengthy 2-part report aired in 2003!. For people who love New Orleans listening to that story wasn’t a Driveway Moment it was an entire Driveway Afternoon. (Did he get a Pulitzer for that? He should have.)

Maybe the media can try that kind of coverage with a few scarily important international conundrums?

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