The Middle Lane is a Dirt Road to Decay

Media critic Margaret Sullivan writes that The media feel safest in the middle lane. Just ask Jeff Flake, John Kasich and Howard Schultz:

One of the supposed golden rules of journalism goes like this: “If everybody’s mad at your coverage, you must be doing a good job.”

That’s ridiculous, of course, though it seems comforting. If everybody’s mad, it may just mean you’re getting everything wrong.

But it’s the kind of muddled thinking that feels right to media people who practice what I’ll call the middle-lane approach to journalism — the smarmy centrism that often benefits nobody, but promises that you won’t offend anyone.

Who is the media’s middle-lane approach actually good for?

Not the public, certainly, since readers and viewers would benefit from strong viewpoints across the full spectrum of political thought, not just minor variations of the same old stuff.

But it is great for politicians and pundits who bill themselves as centrists.

Yes, indeed.  The adult in the room, the triangulating schemer, the reptile whose body temperature requires a choice place in the sun: they all want to direct the debate positionally, situationally.

No, and no again: pick a few sound principles, and defend them against any and all.

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