I’ve been suggesting, since I began writing this blog more than five years ago, that journalism ought to cover the rhetoric of civic discourse (including its own). For example, I wrote just last year:
If the rhetorical features of a political text may be identified outside considerations of ideology, then they are reportable facts and should be reported by the news media. Lies are also reportable facts.
(A simple search string brings up this list from Rhetorica.)
Reportable facts. You look at the world. You make note of it. You report it. Easy.
Well, maybe not…but let’s move on.
Brent Cunningham’s essay in the Columbia Journalism Review is well worth your time. He thinks there should be a rhetoric beat in American journalism. Welcome to the club, Brent. It’s small, but it’s important.
I would, however, offer this caution: The rhetoric beat would require specific training and reliance on neutral experts. Otherwise this beat could make people dumber by treating rhetoric in the same sloppy way journalism sometimes treats the sciences (and politics, and…well, you know).