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July 29, 2007

What James Fallows Said, Eleven Years Ago

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Before there was Digby, or before The Assault on Reason, there was James Fallows. When you've got half an hour, read his 1996 piece "Why Americans Hate the Media", wherein you will discover that everything old is new again. If I ran the Washington Post newsroom, I'd make every political reporter read this during their first day on the job, and again annually thereafter.

July 29, 2007 | Permalink


I think this was either the basis for or an exceprt from his book Breaking the News. We all talked about this years ago, Ezra, back when you were in high school. Remember Brill's Content?

Posted by: McG | Jul 29, 2007 1:39:33 PM


Posted by: Read the byline, for chrissakes. | Jul 29, 2007 1:41:00 PM

Excellent piece, Nick, glad you linked to it. That introductory section is worth a whole article in itself, about many points Fallows doesn't end up really pursuing, but the rest is also very useful.

I hope Fallows also wrote about why the media acts as it does. Notice the ratings of, say, The News Hour (which does have its own problems but is better) compared to network news.

!996 isn't that old, by the way.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 29, 2007 3:03:38 PM

Maybe you need to follow Avedon's lead and start ending your posts with "Signed, Not Ezra".

Posted by: KCinDC | Jul 29, 2007 3:14:07 PM

Sorry Nick! I forgot it was the weekend shift.

Posted by: McG | Jul 29, 2007 6:09:58 PM

good stuff, but Wimblehack!

& the rest of Taibbi's Spanking the Doney is a lot more fun to read.

Posted by: Downpuppy | Jul 29, 2007 7:47:39 PM

If I ran the Washington Post newsroom, I'd make every political reporter read this during their first day on the job, and again annually thereafter.

And then make them take a quiz on it, to see if they understood it.

Just a suggestion.

Posted by: Harry | Jul 29, 2007 8:52:10 PM

Go back earlier. "Boys on the Bus," 1973. The stuff about the White House press corps actively colluding to play down the Watergate story is a perennially edifying astonishment.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein | Jul 29, 2007 10:46:26 PM

Rick, thanks for the pointer. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, and this cuts both ways ... editors protecting the Kennedys, etc.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jul 30, 2007 12:43:48 AM

Nicholas, thank you. Keep posting.

Posted by: eriks | Jul 30, 2007 2:41:00 AM

Great article. What gets me is, if the major news media knows that this is a problem -- that their "struggling court factions" approach alienates viewers and leads many to stop caring about politics -- what's stopping them from addressing this problem? What's to stop, say, CBS from changing its staffing and programming around to give more emphasis to the sort of substantive coverage that people -- if Fallows is right -- want, and have wanted for over eleven years, and which major news networks have known people have wanted for over eleven years?

Posted by: Julian Elson | Jul 30, 2007 4:24:40 AM

That is the question I was wondering about too, Julian. Obviously there's a disconnect. I think people settle for less substance because it's easier and more easily exciting, and then they aren't happy about it. But they aren't willing to become consumers of better alternatives either. The media does what earns it money, and that's largely determined by consumers.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 30, 2007 4:36:28 AM

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