« What This Blog Really Needs On The Weekend | Main | Unions: Still Mattering »

November 19, 2007

The Media-Crit Beat. Again.

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

"Eight modes of transportation, the kindness of six strangers, random conversations with twelve more, and nobody brought up Bartlet versus Ritchie but you" —Donna Moss, The West Wing

I realize I did this last week, but then Tim Russert had to go Rudy Giuliani about Bernie Kerik without bothering to assessing the truth value of Giuliani's response. Instead, the roundtable focused on how Rudy's defense might fare politically. Matt Yglesias provides the appropriate snark, and Paul Krugman cries woe. This isn't the first time this happened, either; Giuliani kept citing bogus prostate cancer statistics, and almost got away with it, but there was enough pushback that the news outlets were willing to run decent fact checks, with some even (correctly!) putting clinically accepted figures in the lede rather than the ninth paragraph.

There's a saying that good journalism reduces uncertainty. Somehow that mantra has meant that political reporting should focus on "who's going to win", even though the answer changes every month or so. But there are other forms of uncertainty in politics. Most of the public knows little to nothing about how the candidates' administrations might affect their daily lives, which is the primary frame of most questions people ask during town hall style debates (which are more subtantive than the questions journalists ask!). So if the primary frame for political journalism were "if candidate X wins, how would it affect the country?" rather than "how does event X affect candidate Y's chances of winning?" we would all be better off, and I would stop feeling the need to link to Why Americans Hate The Media every damn week.

November 19, 2007 | Permalink


I don't know about that last... I think the problem isn't the frame, it's the "getting caught up in the horserace" aspect when everything becomes meta, and not about the underlying story. I think the past couple of weeks in particular have shown a lot of people all too willing to throw off any pretext of discussing actual information in favor of " she called him names and then he came out and hit back hard" type reporting. Almost no one has actually examined the Driver's License issue or its immigration implications; almost no one has done actual investigative work on Bernard Kerik and his relationship to Giuliani... and on and on. Instead we get diamonds and pearls, gender cards and Novak columns and Huckabee ads with Chuck Norris. And each day, our capcity to remind people that this election is about actual issues, not soundbites and meta-analysis, seems to drift away. And honestly, I'm stupefied by how easily it seems to happen. Just stupefied.

Posted by: weboy | Nov 19, 2007 7:47:09 AM

This election (like all elections), for our political press, is not about actual issues.

It's about their getting air time, having fun, making lots of money, and authoring that next political book to sell on everyone else's TV shows.

Posted by: frank | Nov 19, 2007 8:38:00 AM

Bad choice of analogies picking the Prostate meme Nicholas. Seems every bash on Rudy I read dismisses the higher “incidence” as a product of our higher testing. Convenient that liberals dismiss it out of hand because if we did truly have a higher incidence it would support his numbers. So open up this weeks Forbes to an article titled The Cancer Diet?. I’ll quote key parts for you;

“by some estimates, 30% of cancer risk is attributable to diet.”

“One 900,000-person study in 2003 found obesity raised the risk of cancer by 52% in men and 62% in women.”

Does anyone want to argue if we beat the world in Obesity? It would seem there is pretty solid science supporting higher cancer incidence in America. Besides it getting in the way of a good bashing how can you dismiss the fact that we get cancer more frequently then Europeans and thus a lower mortality rate when coupled with higher incidence shows a marked difference is survival rates?

People could argue the other science and points made but if they where so solid why do you always lead with the disclaimer that the incidence is due to testing and not material?

Posted by: Nate O | Nov 19, 2007 6:36:21 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.