Take time for slow news

Media culture is changing our relationship with politics.

Editorial board

The recession is over, and in case you missed it, it ended about a year and a quarter ago âÄî at least according to a recent study by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research. The news, which comes ironically on the heels of skyrocketing poverty rates, has been received with frustration and guffaws.
But is it really so implausible that something so vast, complex and slow-moving as the U.S. economy might take two years, or even 10, to show compelling signs of recovery?
The real problem here may not be the politicians, economists or their policies, but rather our expectations of them. And almost invariably, we derive those expectations from an array of mass media interpreters.
Unfortunately, our hyperactive news media seem uniquely ill-equipped to provide deep, clear coverage of an arena like economics. A confluence of 24-hour cable news programming, shrinking newsrooms and Internet news sites that are obsessively competitive puts inordinate emphasis on novelty at the expense of depth. It also teaches us to expect political results to move as fast as the headlines.
Dan Gillmor, a journalist and the current director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, has called compellingly for a move toward âÄúslow news.âÄù The idea is to foster âÄúcoverage that pulls together the most facts with the most clarity about whatâÄôs known,âÄù without buckling to the pressure to win the scoop. Innovative online investigative news sites ProPublica.org and the Center for Public Integrity exemplify this concept. They embody the essential distinction between journalism and mere news.
In the end, though, news that is discerning and critical requires the same of its audience.