The press doesn't do public policy. Period.

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

CJR's Katia Bachko has an interesting look back on Obama's press conference this week and how the press covered the aftermath; how the press routinely referred to Obama as "professorial," which was meant to be an insult because he went on and on too long with facts and figures and philosophies.

Bachko laments how much time and attention the press spent on dissecting Obama's "tone" at the press conference, as if that were news. (We tagged the NYT for similar nonsense this week.) Bachko concludes:

In the end, the focus on tone demonstrates all over again how the press transforms politics into a blood sport with quantifiable winners and losers, which is disconnected from the significance of actual policy—roads built, hospitals staffed, schools renovated. The impulse to cover the horse race at the cost of the seriousness of governance persists. In this case, if Obama's the professor, then the press is a bunch of unruly kids who won't calm down after recess. The election is long behind us, get back to work.

Sadly though, I think that misses the larger truth about our Beltway press corps. What we're seeing now with the press obsession with style and "tone" and gotcha nonsense represents all that the Beltway media are capable of. There is no "back to work" option because the press doesn't do public policy. Period. That was made abundantly clear during the campaign season, especially the final three months, when process and polling pretty much edged out any attempt examine the candidates' agendas.

And since Obama has been inaugurated the press, again and again, has shown it has very little interest in seriously addressing topics like economics or banking or anything substantive. It will gladly write process stories surrounding those topics (i.e. Who's winning the stimulus message war?). But very little about the issues themselves.

So 'news' is reduced to chatter about teleprompters, and whether Obama was "punch drunk" on TV, or if he was too boring--too professorial--during a press conference while addressing the weighty issues of the day.

Like CJR, I wish the press would get "back to work." It's just that I'm not sure the press knows how to. Or worse, even wants to.

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