Vox Argues The Media’s Coverage of the GND Lacks Substance

By Yoel Fessahaye and Monica Medina

The Green New Deal has been the subject of an avalanche of media coverage.  But other than the bumper sticker labels that have been applied to it — Socialism, Communism, Unrealistic, Infeasible, Unaffordable — what exactly is it?  That is the $64 trillion dollar question. Even the Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski, is in the dark — yesterday she said at the energy industry’s big annual meeting, “I want to know, so what is the plan? What is the proposal? How are we going to get there to a point where my community is not in peril?”  The folks at Vox agree — they are airing a new series called “Strikethrough,” which explores the challenges facing the news media in the age of Trump. And they made a video that ruthlessly dissects why the media’s coverage of the Green New Deal is actually preventing the public from learning what it is. 

  • Media outlets have been focusing on the political ramifications of the GND, while neglecting to report on the actual policies within the bill.
  • This approach to news coverage is known as “tactical framing” — a phrase coined by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the Director of U. Penn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, and an expert on politics and the media. 
  • As Jamieson explains, tactical framing emphasizes strategy over substance, often focusing on the players and the implications of the policy on their political career and party — not the policy itself or its capacity to solve problems.

Worse yet, Jamieson’s research reveals that this style of news reporting is having a real negative effect on our politics — causing new policies like the Green New Deal to stall out before they can gain public support.  Jamieson argues that today’s media coverage and its emphasis on conflict and strategy is making audiences at home more cynical and less informed about big policy ideas — we see ideas only through our partisan lenses.  According to Vox, “the result [of tactical framing] is a cycle of partisanship, where solutions to big problems like climate change are judged on their political popularity rather than their merit.” Tactical framing most likely fosters the spread of misinformation (aka fake news) as well since people are more susceptible to false or exaggerated statements when they don’t have a proper understanding of a proposal.

Why This Matters:  If we cannot have a real public debate about proposals like the Green New Deal because the media is stifling the substance, then it will be hard to fix what is broken in government.  The stakes are so high.  When it comes to the GND, the future of our planet, our national security, and our economic prosperity are all at stake.  We started ODP for this very reason — to change the conversation about conservation.  That is more important now than ever.

To Go Deeper: ICYMI, we did a short and sweet summary of the Green New Deal Resolution back in early February — to get smart fast on the substance of the GND, just click here.

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