So, the story so far: Jane came to me last fall and asked if I wanted to create a news site for her. She didn’t say that I needed to cover Story X or Political Campaign Y, or chase the media soccer ball and its story of the day. She has the faith in the people she brings to the site to chart their own course. I said pretty clearly in those early discussions that I wasn’t interested in throwing up every horse race poll in creation, or engaging in the theater criticism all too prevalent in modern punditry (“I thought the President needed to feel more deeply”). I was interested in highlighting the policies that will affect the lives of every American, where they’re going, what they’re about, who’s for them, who’s against them, and which details matter. In a perfect world, these would be the measures by which political leaders are judged. But that information rarely rains down off of elite media rooftops into the awaiting buckets of a public thirsty for knowledge.
I’ve been thirsty before, like everyone else on a diet of traditional media and cable news. Pew Research just did a poll about coverage of the health care debate throughout the 18-month odyssey. Not surprisingly, over 40% of the coverage concerned politics and strategy, with 20% going to descriptions of the plans, and less than 10% to both the state of American health care and the legislative process. I’d gather that an analysis of FDL would completely flip those metrics. There really is an audience for this stuff if you actually present it. There is a citizenry out there looking to be informed.
I remember that week when the big battle on the left emerged in the health care debate, with defenders of the bill and detractors dueling in companion posts. Some reporter asked me if that damaged the debate in any way, and I responded, “I don’t know, I haven’t heard a lot about death panels this week.” Suddenly, the tiny corner of America represented online had an adult conversation and a real discussion; the hootin’ and hollerin’ that too often passes for political debate subsided.
Information is the key to unlock a door. Too often political leaders hide behind complexity to justify their activities. They don’t expect their audiences to understand procedural nuances or wonkish details. They thrive on the public’s boredom. This is the space than an FDL can fill. And it’s been great to provide those keys to this community every now and again, so they can unlock doors and challenge power.
I am uncomfortable touting myself; I prefer to let the work speak. But this month FDL’s running a fundraiser, and if that means more resources, more capacity, the ability to hand out more keys, then I humbly ask for your help. I think we’ve all learned that change can be more frustratingly difficult that we would have ever realized. At the most basic level, change begins with a set of facts. They are the building blocks that can be stacked and put into action. Let us continue to bring them to you.