News is sometimes defined as whatever happens to or near an editor.
That is especially true if one assumes that an editor is a typical resident of the community, interested in what other residents are interested in, and affected by the same things that affect other residents. Government, for good or for bad, is one of those things.
Good advice for covering government is to cover it as if you live in the community and as if it matters to you. Unfortunately, that's not always how we do it. Too often we and our newsrooms consider it "boring but important" - and sometimes not even important. Boring is in the eye of the beholder, however. As one well-thumbed journalism textbook puts it, City Hall "is no place for the dull reporter."1
Let's take a look at why we should cover government more, not less, and at some ways to make government coverage less boring.
The First Amendment gives us freedom of the press so that we can report openly on what the government is doing:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of re gion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
In order for citizens to exercise this freedom of speech, they must be fully informed about what their government is doing. The traditional function of the media, the so-called Fourth Estate, is to be the watchdog on government, the observer that keeps the public informed of what the government is doing. The citizens can then act on the information we give them. Our responsibility is to provide the information citizens need to make informed choices.
Research conducted by the...