Go read Matt Yglesias.
So says Slate press critic Jack Shafer.
There's a slight problem with his piece, and that's his claim that the Beltway press corps is just naturally inclined to be tough on new presidents. That when the campaign winner arrives in Washington, D.C., the established press is, traditionally, just itching to shift into its hyper-skeptical mode.
Writes Shafer [emphasis added]:
The press corps works to hold the president accountable for what he does and extra hard to hold him accountable for what he does not do, a territory so vast and encompassing that foraging journalists assigned to the beat can never hunger for a story. Everything and nothing become fixings.
Because the press worked so hard to hold then-new president George Bush accountable in the winter of spring of 2001, right? Only somebody who thinks the press did a stellar job during the last eight years and who refuses to acknowledge the press completely rolled over for Bush, especially in his first term, would cling to the naive notion that the Beltway press treats all incoming presidents with deep skepticism.
"It appears Matt Drudge, along with the Republican Party is in complete meltdown," writes Crooks and Liars.
Great essay by Philadelphia Daily News blogger Will Bunch. Go read the whole thing:
It was living proof of my personal belief that the greatest role for journalists is not to make sure that every story has 50 percent of one side and 50 percent of the other side - but that the vital function for reporters is to preserve democracy and the freedom of the press, because without those freedoms a valid media would cease to exist. Yes, they're voicing outrage today inside the sacred sanctuary of the Temple of Objective Journalism , where the celebrants nervously fingered their rosaries rather than confront the Constitutional bonfire that was building outside.
But for eight years now, there's been an out-of-control fire raging outside of that temple - a fire that was built upon the USA Patriot Act and Guantanamo and rendition and torture and signing statements and 16 words in a State of the Union Address. Ultimately, saving the last fabric of democracy is more important than worrying about what contrived commandments of journalism were stepped on while the blaze was finally extinguished.
I myself would call it truth-telling, and honest journalism, but now we have some who want to call it "media bias." That's fine with me, but understand this.
"Media bias" may have just saved America.
Newsweek's latest issue toasts Beltway insider, and Politico writer, Mike Allen for his tireless work on the campaign trail this year. We're sure Allen works hard and we're all for media accolades. But we were struck by the passage where Allen's editor at the Politico explained the appeal of Allen's Beltway diary at Politico [emphasis added]:
"He knows everyone's family, interests, favorite sports teams, big events, alma mater, color," says [Jim] VandeHei. "This sounds corny, but it is a big reason so many people open up to the man." Allen puts it all into his Playbook, he says, "because we all know each other."
Like we said, that's why they call it The Village.
Eric keeps urging me to stop reading Mickey Kaus, for the sake of my sanity. Unfortunately, I sometimes can't help myself. Here's Kaus last night:
Isn't it pretty clear that the reason Obama is contesting McCain's home state of Arizona isn't to humiliate McCain or because Arizona might actually be decisive ... but as a media strategy to generate Election Week MSM stories about how McCain is on the defensive, etc. ... P.S.: It's working. On MTP, Tom Brokaw had "Arizona" at the top of his list of contested states, as part of a how-things-have-changed-for-McCain analysis. It's almost as if the MSM is playing along!
Yeah, it's almost as if the MSM ("mainstream media") is playing along with Obama's strategy. But not quite.
See, Pollster.com has McCain up by 5.2 points in Arizona. And Obama up by 7.7 points in Pennsylvania. And, of course, the MSM has devoted considerably more attention to Pennsylvania-as-swing-state than to Arizona -- just as McCain wants them to! It's almost as if the MSM is playing along, all right -- with McCain.
OReilly's been making the media rounds lately promoting his new book and one of his fave memes is that he's a marked man, and that crazy libs have made his life miserable. He tells CBS:
"My life is dangerous now. You know, I have bodyguards and security. I can't go many places. I can't be in certain crowd situations. When I do a book signing, I gotta have a phalanx of state troopers there because there are crazy people. And then there're the Web sites and all of that, which are just totally out of control. They encourage these nuts."
Stories about early voting lines in several states that have extended four, six, and eight hours are remarkable. I've been voting for the better part of two decades and we can't remember seeing anything like the widespread phenomena that's unfolding.
As Rachel Maddow noted in a recent commentary on MSNBC, on the one hand it makes you proud that citizens would endure that kind of hardship (and let's face it, is it) to vote. (Her other point was that the lines constitute a modern day poll tax.)
But what I can't understand is why isn't the press drilling down on the very simple question of why? Why is this happening? Is it simply the popularity of early voting, and does the process of early voting take that much longer?
That would seem to be journalism 101. But so far, all I've read and seen are a lot of can-you-believe-how-long-these-lines-are? reports. What I haven't seen is much insight into how and why this has suddenly became a country where, at least in some sizable pockets, it can take an entire workday to cast a single vote. (Or do political journalists only do horse race and personality-based campaign reporting?)
I'm not suggesting there's any dark conspiracy behind the long lines. Just that the state of voting in this country sorta resembles a joke, and that the press ought to treat that as a serious news story, instead of dismissing it the way today's WSJ did. In a news article about possible snafus that may unfold at the voting place tomorrow, the Journal listed one possibility as, "The lines are long." The next line in the Journal article read, "Tough luck."
Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein are having an interesting discussion of why news organizations spend so much of their resources flying around the country, watching speeches they could watch on television from their offices -- which would free up time to do more fact-checking of those speeches, among other things.
Not only is this business of traveling with the candidate not very useful, with its huge ratio of time spent traveling to time spent doing stuff, but it's also quite expensive for the news organization paying for your travel. And yet, it's considered essential to do it. After all, that's "reporting." And reporting, as we all know, is the essence of "journalism." ... Sit at home and watch the rally on television or look up transcripts, and that's not reporting at all. Sure, you'd save a lot of time and that time could be spent gathering information. And sure, you watching the rally on TV at your desk where you have your internet connection makes it easier to find facts and put things in context. But the important thing is to do the reporting.
The central problem of the modern news media is, of course, supply. 24 hours of cable television a day, political junkies refreshing web sites -- you need more, more, more content. So the campaign pays people to come up with things that reporters can sell to editors and producers. Media organizations then pay to ensure their reporters are in close contact with these people, which assures the media organizations a steady stream of stuff to talk about.
I think both of them are missing a fairly simple point: Big news organizations pay a lot of money to send reporters out on the campaign trail because they can.
Sure, those reporters could stay in the office, watching the speeches on TV and reading the transcripts -- and "find[ing] facts and put[ting] things in context." But they couldn't do that much better than, say, Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein can. In fact, many of them would do it much worse.
Travelling with the candidate, on the other hand, is expensive. Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein probably can't do that.
Travelling with the campaign is important to the big news organizations in part because it constitutes a competitive advantage they have over blogs and independent media. They aren't about to sacrifice that advantage in order to focus on finding facts and putting things in context -- things many bloggers and independent media do much, much better than they do.