Rise of the Pundit

This video raises issues about how traditional media outlets are paying for and seeking out certain types of opinion writers. It’s about “writing noise.” It’s about filling air time while appearing to offer diverse views. As these freelance writers say, some of them will “spam” editors with blog post ideas until someone takes bait. Others will tailor their opinions according to the publication or news outlet, which suggests there is little genuine opinion or critical analysis. Some of these writers also talk about how their opinions are solicited but go unpaid.

Mark Fletcher, writing on The Feed’s parent news site, SBS, says that this idea of the “everyday” pundit offering opinions without expertise waters down political discussion. It’s not just about offering different voices a role in the democratic process. It reduces policy debates to a cacophony of uninformed personal views. In particular, it provides politicians fuel to evade proper policy discussion.

A recent political exchange about the Gonski education reforms was reduced to a series of soundbites about financial costs, rather than the social benefits. Fletcher writes:

At no point did anybody try to identify the point of opinion writing, which must surely be to give people the language they need to explore and express social, political, and cultural ideas.  But if the point of opinion writing is to improve discussion about political issues and if the SBS can run a piece where it’s suggested that there are too many opinion writers, it should follow that we live in a lousy world with excellent political discussion. 

I’m yet to find anybody who would describe our political conversations as excellent.

More than that, Australia’s opinion writers and commentators are showing that they don’t have the chops to be good policy analysts.  There’s a difference between making policy discussions accessible and making policy discussions asinine.  When policy discussions are stripped of nearly everything but the dollars, something’s gone wrong.

Source: SBS News.