Chris Christie and the Problem With Our Media Culture

by Andrew Forrest

(I’m very interested in American politics. This is a new blog, so you should know that though I plan on refraining from telling you why your political opinions are wrong and mine are right, I do plan on writing about trends I see in American politics and culture. Such as the following….)


The way our media covers American politics is one of the main problems in American politics, as the coverage of the Chris Christie bridge scandal makes clear.

This week, documents were published that show that top aides to the NJ Governor deliberately snarled traffic leading from the George Washington Bridge into Fort Lee, NJ. Christie denies any knowledge of their actions.

I’m not concerned with parsing out the truth of the scandal or in Governor Christie’s fitness for public office. Rather, I’m much more concerned with how the media has covered this and other political scandals: like spectators at a sporting event.

I’ve read very little coverage of the Christie scandal that addresses the morality of the issue, what it means when public officials use their official positions in unethical ways. Instead, almost all the coverage is interested in questions like:

  • how will this hurt Governor Christie’s 2016 presidential chances?
  • did Governor Christie respond quickly enough to diffuse the situation?
  • was the tone that Governor Christie struck in his press conference the right one?

Notice that all these (and many other) angles on the story make the story about how the politician plays the game, not about the substance of the actions of the people involved. This tendency is not unique to this story, but is the way the American media covers modern politics.

As a citizen, I’m much less concerned with how our political representatives play the game and spin the story than in the substance of their actions. What about you?


You May Also Like


Georgia Bianchi January 10, 2014 - 9:36 pm

Good point. I look forward to future posts.

Curtis January 10, 2014 - 10:50 pm

Getting a true picture of a politicians character through their actions is hard these days because of all these synsanlized media stories. I guess that’s why they say don’t judge a book by their cover.

Spencer January 11, 2014 - 9:13 am

Nice post. A fundamental flaw in the media?s coverage and the way we follow politics is that everyone has basically conceded it?s a game where there are winners and losers, victims and villains (i.e., Bridget Kelly is the villain, Chris Christie is the victim, Democrats won because it delivers Christie a blow to his 2016 chances). The losers are the people of New Jersey who missed meetings, events at their kid?s schools or otherwise had their lives impacted by a traffic jam; not to mention the unforeseen consequences it may have had on first responders whether that is police or firemen. What became of the individuals they were rushing to respond to? It wasn?t just a traffic jam.

I certainly wish more was written about the morality of the issue as well because this wasn?t just an act of one aide. Many people from the Governor?s office to the Port Authority actually gave the ok on the decision and it concerns me that somehow the tone set by leaders in those offices implicitly encouraged such actions.

The same could be said for Democrats alike when news broke this week from Robert Gates upcoming memoir that Hilary Clinton didn?t vote for the surge in Iraq because she was running against President Obama in the Iowa caucuses. Lacking conviction on moral issues when public resources and lives are at stake is a relevant front page topic that should be widely covered by the media.

Speaking of which, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” is on my 2014 reading list.

Andrew Forrest January 11, 2014 - 11:13 am

I think you are exactly right: what does this issue tell us about the moral climate of the organizations involved?

Although politics does have a winners/losers aspect, I think approaching every story like a contest and having our reporters play the role of sideline reporters is damaging to our social fabric.

C. Smith September 1, 2014 - 10:02 pm

It is also sad that into today’s world of instant gratification it is more important for the media to be first with a story, not necessarily correct. Why let something as trivial as facts get in the way of a good story?

Andrew Forrest September 2, 2014 - 1:20 pm

Agreed. I’d imagine that the pressure to fill 24 hours would insidiously corrupt most of us. But that still doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.


Leave a Comment