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Should Non-Partisan Media Include Affiliation Next to Names?

by Wes Messamore, published

Here's an open question for the entire IVN community:

When reporting news about a politician, should non-partisan media list their party affiliation as is customary in a lot of news reports?

I was thinking about this the other day. If what should matter is the person, their record, their platform, their credentials, and their character, not their party, then as new non-partisan media emerge, should we set a different journalistic convention and decline to offer up a politician's party affiliation unless it's somehow necessarily relevant to the story?

Instead of, "Rep. Paul Ryan (R-MN)," should we just write, "Rep. Paul Ryan," or "Rep. Paul Ryan (MN)?" Why not make Ryan stand on his own merits as an individual lawmaker and just make him "Paul Ryan?" Isn't that all that Independents are saying should matter anyways? If we stop viewing politicians as members of parties, but as individual human beings elected by their neighbors to make policy for them, won't we start winning part of the battle against uncritical, partisan groupthink by default? Simply by changing our language to change our attitudes?

We can have a lot more fun with this idea too. What if instead of just eliminating the conventional use of party affiliation to brand politicians in news stories, we replaced it with a more meaningful affiliation? One idea that occurred to me was: What if a news source always followed a politician's name with the stock ticker symbol for the company whose employees gave him or her the greatest amount of campaign contributions in the current or most recent election cycle?

What do you think? Should non-partisan journalism drop the party labels? Should it replace them? If so, with what?

Instead of Barack Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R), you would get: Barack Obama (MSFT) and Mitt Romney (GS), for Microsoft and Goldman Sachs. If the largest donor company is privately held, as in the case of Paul Ryan used as an example above, the convention could be to simply list its name thusly: Paul Ryan (Baker Tilly). In fact, it wouldn't be too cumbersome just to do that for everyone and dispense with the stock abbreviation: Barack Obama (Microsoft) and Mitt Romney (Goldman Sachs).

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