WASHINGTON, DC – After 14 years at National Public Radio, Andrea Seabrook left in July and, to hear her talk about her experience covering Capitol Hill, it’s clear that she had one takeaway: It’s damn frustrating.
“I realized that there is a part of covering Congress, if you’re doing daily coverage, that is actually sort of colluding with the politicians themselves because so much of what I was doing was actually recording and playing what they say or repeating what they say,” Seabrook told POLITICO. “And I feel like the real story of Congress right now is very much removed from any of that, from the sort of theater of the policy debate in Congress, and it has become such a complete theater that none of it is real. … I feel like I am, as a reporter in the Capitol, lied to every day, all day. There is so little genuine discussion going on with the reporters. … To me, as a reporter, everything is spin.”
As a result, Seabrook is trying to do something about it. Her new project is DecodeDC, a website that will feature Seabrook’s blog posts and podcasts that aim to “decipher Washington’s Byzantine language and procedure, sweeping away what doesn’t matter so listeners can focus on what does.”
“We need to stop coddling lawmakers, stop buying their red team, blue team narrative and ask harder questions of them,” Seabrook says in an introductory audio clip. Turns out plenty of people agree with her, including SoundCloud, which granted Seabrook’s project a fellowship to support her work.
”I am going to try to focus myself on the stories that none of the other reporters have time to cover,” she said. “NPR would have loved to have had any of these stories. .. The problem is, as a modern, esteemed news organization, NPR also feels that it needs to cover the daily news and the daily news as currently defined is what happened on the floor today, what’s the big debate in Congress, what’s your government doing. And I completely understand that. But our staff is so small on the Hill that it was impossible for me to do more than a story once in a while that agreed with how I felt it should be covered.”
Seabrook’s confident that, even though she left behind an established news organization, “the media environment we’re in makes it very easy for me to leave and say there are so many means of distribution these days that really what matters is content, and if I can make great content than everything else will fall into place.” Seabrook says that a lot of public radio stations have already expressed an interest in airing her reports and stories.
And she’s not out to malign those colleagues on the Hill still tracking down the day’s news.
“There’s a lot of great work being done,” said Seabrook. “I think the problem is the Congress itself. And we’re all in the same positions, scrambling to figure out how the hell to cover these a*sholes.”