Monday, April 14, 2008

The best comment on the campaign season, and the problem of political reporting, inspired by the flapdoodle "controversy" (as Matt Lauer sternly warned us this morning) over guns and church:
...But it matters in a completely self-referential way, it matters only because it matters, not because it means anything about Obama, or illuminates anything about his potential presidency. It's a hollow scandal. Those housing plans, by contrast, don't "matter" in a way that convinces the media to cover them, or to relentlessly hound McCain about the inadequacy of his proposal. They don't "matter," but they are meaningful. And this is why I don't like writing about the campaign. It's full of hollow scandals and ignored travesties. But you have to cover the hollow scandals, because they're are blown up until they're definitional in the campaign. And that leaves me writing about high-profile non-events in a way that helps cement their importance, even if I'm writing to deride their legitimacy.

If you're ever interested in really getting to the bottom of what's wrong with political journalism, incidentally, spend some time thinking about the fact that most of its leading practitioners came up through campaign reporting, and writing about verbal gaffes and off-the-cuff comments is what they trained to do. The tone of political journalism is set by people who are thrilled -- on a professional level -- that Obama said this thing, and now we can cover this story.

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