Patterico's Pontifications


The Not-So-Golden Age of Political Reporting

Filed under: 2012 Election,General — Karl @ 8:19 am

[Posted by Karl]

Jack Shafer, while noting the proliferation of political websites, nevertheless hails the arrival of OTUS, which aggregates political coverage from ABC News:

As [Jake] Tapper says in this promo, OTUS (short for of the United States as in, POTUS, president of the United States, or SCOTUS, supreme court of the United States) is all about the “power moves, the mini-dramas, the scheming” in politics. Tapper promises that OTUS will flag both the “urgent and the ridiculous,” offer games, display correspondents’ Twitter feeds, and create a stock market-style ticker that assesses the rising and falling worth of candidates with social media.


Not to oversell the current scene, but the proliferation of political news sites—and my apologies to those I didn’t name—means we’re living in a bit of a golden age of political reporting. At least when it comes to national politics and national government, there have never been more reporters competing to break news. Not everything on the menu tastes great, but there’s no denying it’s a feast.

Ironically, when elections are not the hot story, journos and media critics tend to deride horse race journalism on a number of fronts. It perpetuates the illusion of neutral journalism, the illusion that an insider perspective matters, and so on.  But the one I would focus on is this:

[T]here’s a good argument that general elections—in particular, general presidential elections—are driven primarily by “the fundamentals,” especially the state of the economy, and that most of what happens in campaigns (the gaffes, the messaging strategies, etc.) doesn’t amount to much.

That said, such coverage may matter more in primaries, but in general elections, campaign strategies and tactics tend to matter only where there are extreme disparities in resources — ironically, campaigns where strategies and tactics are least likely to matter.

Establishment political journalism — and most of the blogosphere, for that matter — will continue to ignore this, and for good reason.  The public likes drama, which is why most journalism is based around narratives of conflict.  The audience for political journalism is generally predisposed to treat campaigns as a spectator sport. 

However, the world of sports media offers a nice example to draw upon.  One of the biggest stories in sports media over the past month has been the saga of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.  His charisma and outspoken religious beliefs polarize audiences and incense left-leaning, establishment sports media pundits.  Indeed, they were all the more incensed as Tebow racked up a string of unlikely, last-minute victories.  Conversely, those among the Cult of Tebow gloated over those who doubted his lack of talent would be overcome by divine favor.  That the Broncos’ winning streak was due primarily to the team’s defense was mentioned far less often.  Fixating on Tebow draws an audience, but mostly fails at informing that audience.

Today’s political journalism still suffers from these same flaws, even though the subject is ostensibly more important than pigskin scores.  OTUS could just as easily have been named MOTSIOP — More of the Same in One Place.  A Golden Age? Only if you value quantity over quality.


17 Responses to “The Not-So-Golden Age of Political Reporting”

  1. Ding!

    Karl (5a613f)

  2. The “Golden Age of Bloviating” perhaps

    Icy (7becc9)

  3. the media is hot hot hot for catalog model Wall Street Romney I think, mostly cause of they know he doesn’t bring a lot to the table plus also cause of how he’s so freaky and elite compared to real Americans

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  4. Sigh. I’m glad you have some new foci for your crude attacks that help Obama, but you should limit yourself, dude. The “clown car” reference to Romney’s wife kinda reminds people you are sort of a jerk, and not just about politics (you seem far more interested in the personal).

    But hey, lots of folks defend you. Why not go over to Goldstein’s place and snark on Palin? They responded well to that, as I recall.

    Simon Jester (ef9f12)

  5. if happy is a “real American”, count me out.

    Colonel Haiku (3a849c)

  6. Lord knows the Dems are
    target-rich environment
    hey look! a squirrel

    Colonel Haiku (3a849c)

  7. Amazing how many former conservative writers are on their knees for mitty. That should lessen their future book sales.

    sickofrinos (44de53)

  8. And let’s get something straight, mr feets; Romney is a Sears display mannequin, not a catalog model.

    Icy (7becc9)

  9. sickness runs soul deep
    but obama gone ballz deep
    in Johnny Rebels

    Colonel Haiku (3a849c)

  10. golden retrievers
    lovingly lick johnsons like
    perry licks his wounds

    Colonel Haiku (3a849c)

  11. alex chilton smiles
    that perrylove a river
    a runnin’ soul deep

    Colonel Haiku (3a849c)

  12. sad commentary
    that the tepid jake tapper’s
    as good as it gets

    Colonel Haiku (3a849c)

  13. Only if you value quantity over quality.

    Anyone who ever figured on journalists producing “quality” doesn’t have a clear grasp of the meaning of “quality”…

    Smock Puppet, Notor of the Incredibly Bleeding Obvious (fb9a7a)

  14. Colonel,
    I was just thinking the same thing about tapper. It’s freakin depressing that he’s the “most journalistic” reporter out there.

    Ghost (6f9de7)

  15. a display mannequin yes but not for toughskins lol

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  16. Rush at times refers to “random acts of journalism” when real reporting is done.

    Listening to the various ways the “deal” on the two month extension of the payroll tax decrease was “something”. “Something” because I don’t know how to describe it anymore. It should be shocking to hear how twisted and misleasding it is, but it isn’t shocking anymore because we are used to it. It didn’t quite get to, “Republican Fools Finally Come Around and See How Obama is Right (Again)”, but it was close, even on the hourly news breaks on stations hosting conservative talk radio.

    I’m tempted to start a blog, or post with permission on the jury, simply displaying a headline or two a day and point out how it could have been done instead.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  17. It’s remarkable, MD, I guess one might call it malpractice, it’s a totally unworkable plan that
    Tapper’s own reporting revealed, yet that didn’t matter,

    narciso (87e966)

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