Journalists should also report on how the shutdown is playing in legislators’ districts. Members of Congress are highly sensitive to public opinion, but the voters they care about most are in their constituents, which are often far more extreme than national-level public opinion. As Roe told NPR’s Melissa Block when asked about polls showing the public blaming Republicans for a potential shutdown, “I can’t explain that. I don’t think that’ll occur in my district.” There are severe limits to the value of anecdotal man-on-the-street reporting, but reporters could at least consult with key activists and party figures in the district and see how they are reacting to the fight and the position held by their local representative.
How can journalists cover the gridlock and the current government shutdown issue, without being partisan, and in ways that will explain, not simply try and blame.