How the media mistakes a slogan for a story

Infrastructure week is a "cheeky" slogan, but the real story is what the infrastructure funding in the "Build Back Better" bill will accomplish, CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter said on "Reliable Sources" Sunday. And it's the media's responsibility to report the story, not just repeat catch-all slogans.

Critical Race Theory is another example of a concept that's become a rallying cry.

"The activists who tried to make critical race theory from a national story into a national slogan," Stelter said. "They knew what they were doing. They were trying to create a boogeyman and it worked."

Natasha Alford, vice president of digital content at the Grio and CNN political analyst, said the media, in an attempt to answer questions, often falls into a trap of repeating phrases that are put out there to intentionally derail the public dialogue.

"The media has a problem with trying to answer big questions by our deadline," Alford said.

And when focusing too much on slogans, the substance of the news can get pushed out of the spotlight. An October CBS poll found that only 10% of Americans know the specifics of the "Build Back Better" bill.

"There's been so much sloganeering, so much talk about horse race politics, so much of a spotlight on people like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema," said Nicole Hemmer, associate research scholar at Columbia University. "But not enough attention is being paid to actually informing people about what's in this piece of legislation."

Stelter said the format of news also can have an effect — often users have to pay a subscription to gain access to substantial, in-depth coverage. And too often complex issues, such as CRT, are portrayed in overly simplified, black and white terms.

The media has also come under criticism for its reporting on the economy.

"People experience the economy, not just through the media, but their own experience," Claire Atkinson, chief media correspondent at Insider, said. "And we are absolutely not here to be promoters of the Biden agenda in any way."

Yet there is a "bad news bias," where the media is attracted to covering the negative.

"Some of that bias just comes out the gate too soon," Alford said. "I mean, it was not even 48 hours after Joe Biden's elected, and (the media is asking) 'is he failing us?'"

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