Remapping Debate has Launched

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Remapping Debate, an online domestic public policy journal focused on original reporting, launched this week. The journal seeks to ask the "why" and "why not" questions that are too rarely addressed in most news stories.

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Buried behind stories that treat a particular policy as natural or inevitable or realistic are underlying assumptions about the impracticality of alternative choices. The result is that robust policy debate is constricted, even at the moments when very large decisions are being made.

Remapping Debate, launched this week, tackles a fundamental paradox about the media ecosystem: for all the outlets and for all the bytes, the why and why not questions of public policy are too rarely addressed.

Craig Gurian, Remapping Debate's Editor, said: "Buried behind stories that treat a particular policy as natural or inevitable or realistic are underlying assumptions about the impracticality of alternative choices. The result is that robust policy debate is constricted, even at the moments when very large decisions are being made."

Gurian continued: "The heart of our work will be original reporting. We take seriously the idea that the job of journalists is to question and to illuminate. We think we need to reject the mental borderlines that have mainstream reporters speaking only to mainstream sources, and alternative reporters speaking only to alternative sources."

"We insist that it is probing – not stenography – that can illuminate and inform, and that challenging a policy maker or policy advocate to engage with alternatives to a pre-scripted sound bite represents not commentary, but an essential element of real reporting," Gurian concluded.

In the first edition:

Can the anti-inflation reflex be tamed?
Original Reporting, by Greg Marx
With the economy stalled and unemployment stuck near 10 percent, an increasingly broad range of economists, from small-government libertarians to those on the center-left, has argued that higher inflation could be key to creating jobs. Their argument echoes the analysis offered by some top officials at the Federal Reserve — but can the central bank shake off old habits and craft policy built to meet current circumstances?

Coming Boomer pension cuts: what impact on economy?
Original Reporting, by Diana Jean Schemo
With 78 million Baby Boomers heading into retirement over the next 20-plus years, how will cuts in guaranteed monthly pension benefits to both public and private sector workers — in addition to those that have already been implemented — affect the ability of future retirees to engage in economy-sustaining consumer spending?

47 House Dems: Keep lower rates for rich dividends, capital gains
Story Repair, by Greg Marx
In this feature, we select a story that appeared in a major news outlet and take it in for repairs. The source material this week was a Politico story that reported that nearly a fifth of House Democrats were urging the Speaker to extend reduced capital gains and dividend tax rates for the wealthy beyond the scheduled year-end expiration of those rates.

Reporting highlights lack of information about donors behind political ad surge
Kudos, by Remapping Debate
As is evident to all observers, spending on political advertising by non-profit and other groups theoretically independent of the Democratic and Republican parties is up — way up — in this heated midterm campaign cycle. But, as some solid reporting has demonstrated, the identities of the donors actually bankrolling more and more of that spending remain shrouded in mystery.

NYC student testing scandal: roots and reverberations
Commentary, by Craig Gurian
Why didn't warning signs about the flaws in the testing regime reverberate more with the public and the press in the years leading up to Mayor Bloomberg's 2009 re-election, and is there now any chance for productive debate that gets well beyond testing-is-good versus testing-is-bad (or subject-matter-knowledge-is-good versus teaching-skill-is-good).

Article fails to probe potential impact of GOP plan for hearings to review health law
Press Criticism, by Lori Bikson
Washington Post story on Republican plans for holding 2011 oversight hearings as part of an effort to cause the public to repudiate the new health insurance law fails to ask basic questions about what the hearings strategy would mean, including questions about what evidence the GOP would be able to marshal or what counter-evidence Democrats might produce.

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Althea Webber
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