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July 23, 2007

When The Press Stops Being Polite, And Starts Getting Meta

It's a bit bizarre to read an article in a major national newsweekly that takes, as its primary subject, why it and other major national newsweeklies aren't giving much attention to a story. In this case, the subject at hand is John Edwards' poverty tour, and among the article's many unsatisfactory explanations for why the tour got so little ink is that "Edwards seems uncomfortable deviating from an established script" while "Kennedy would sometimes order his caravan to halt so he could chat with poor children he passed on the roadside."

Oh. At any rate, I think it's actually alright if the press doesn't lavish much coverage on a particular set of campaign stops, even if this set uses the topic of poverty to appear more virtuous than other sets. But if they don't want to cover it, they shouldn't cover it. If they do want to cover it, they should. But to simultaneously decide Edwards and poverty are too boring for column inches and then feel guilty and reach for a bunch of hollow explanations for "why" is just a waste of everybody's time.

July 23, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Yes, but John Edwards has hair, and sometimes gets it cut. This is, of course, major news which is endlessly fascinating.

Posted by: El Cid | Jul 23, 2007 9:35:52 AM

Right, so after the whole hair thing and the endless trivia that the press reports, is it any wonder candidates don't go off script?

Is there anything the press wouldn't rather do than their actual job of reporting on the present and future governance of our country?

Posted by: chuck | Jul 23, 2007 9:39:09 AM

"Edwards seems uncomfortable deviating from an established script"

Close. Try "Edwards seems uncomfortable accomodating our established script.'

Anything, anything, that these people say about an 'established script', is utterly worthless and a waste of time.

On the tombstone of the Republic will be the epitaph 'Killed By A Story Arc.'

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Jul 23, 2007 10:06:50 AM

Of course it's Newsweek that refuses to deviate from the script, which calls on the press to judge the value of something of by how much attention the press is giving it. A totally pomo exercise whereby the press is analyzing the reaction to something before it, or anyone else, can have a reaction. It's like the overly stoned, insecure person watching a comedy in a movie theater and madly looking around trying to figure out if the movie's funny by how many people are laughing.

In any case, even going by the inane standards of the piece, Edwards's tour was a success, sparking a bunch of hair-free stories. In fact, on the same MSNBC website, in "First Read," the headline is NICE PRESS FOR EDWARDS, which highlights Time magazine's piece about the JRE's tour.


Posted by: david mizner | Jul 23, 2007 10:35:25 AM

The sad part is this the same game they always play. After Gore went down in 2000, there was all this soul searching by the press that it had gone too far in his coverage. They said things should change. So did they? No. We got swiftboating in 2004. This, to me, isn't about Edwards. It's about the nature of media in this country. It seems reduced to the Anna Nicole School of journalistic thought. I get it. Titilation is fun. But it's not suppose to take the place of being serious about reporting. Yet, that's exactly what we have. All form, no substance. If they really want to do self examination. They should do it when it's meaningful- when they are writing their stories, not after.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 23, 2007 11:52:53 AM

It's a bit bizarre to read an article in a major national newsweekly that takes, as its primary subject, why it and other major national newsweeklies aren't giving much attention to a story. ...

But to simultaneously decide Edwards and poverty are too boring for column inches and then feel guilty and reach for a bunch of hollow explanations for "why" is just a waste of everybody's time.

That's not really the primary subject. The primary subject is that the campaign hasn't caught the attention of Americans. That isn't the same thing as not being covered. It has been covered. Nobody cares, so they cover other things. I don't think the article shows any hint of being based in guilt.

among the article's many unsatisfactory explanations for why the tour got so little ink is that "Edwards seems uncomfortable deviating from an established script" while "Kennedy would sometimes order his caravan to halt so he could chat with poor children he passed on the roadside."

It wasn't offered as a primary explanation of that. It's part of a comparison of Edwards and Kennedy designed to make Edwards seem relatively dull, which he may be. But the article rightly continues, "Still, Edwards's problems may have less to do with his personal shortcomings than with the reality that RFK's America is gone." People aren't engaged, receptive, moved in the same ways they were then. That's the other big point of the story.

Of course it's Newsweek that refuses to deviate from the script, which calls on the press to judge the value of something of by how much attention the press is giving it.

David, the tour was designed to draw attention to poverty (and Edwards).

A totally pomo exercise whereby the press is analyzing the reaction to something before it, or anyone else, can have a reaction.

People have reacted, with a yawn. I think that's worth analysis and commentary.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 23, 2007 2:23:25 PM

Excellent post, Ezra.

Newsweek seems to be part of the media that wants to make this into American Idol and stay away from real issues. They choose not to cover John Edwards and poverty and then talk about how John Edwards and poverty are not being covered. In other words, they create the news themselves. It's phony and it's why we have Bush now. The MSM continues to fail America. Thank God for this and other blogs.

Posted by: Tom Wells | Jul 23, 2007 4:22:48 PM

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