Political reporters can come across as shallow because they spend too much time covering process over substance.
The big recent political news out of Kentucky as of late is the fact that while Democratic candidate for Senate Alison Lundergan Grimes almost certainly voted for Obama in 2012, she refused to admit so in a recent debate. That probably wasn’t the smartest play, after all everyone knows she almost certainly voted for Obama. But then again Kentucky is a conservative state where Obama has never been popular and so it makes sense for her to distance herself from him. That might not be a profile in liberal courage, but then again it’s not like Republican candidates go around volunteering about who they voted for in 2004 right?
But that’s not how the political media handled the bombshell that a Democratic politician voted for a Democrat for president in 2012. o, instead there was a media firestorm of criticism where Grimes wasn’t just criticized for making a debating mistake. Rather she was savaged by basically everyone with none other than the host of Meet The Press Chuck Todd calling her unfit for office.
Which begs the question that comes up during election seasons time after time: why is the political media so incredibly shallow?
And it can be incredibly shallow. After all, if Grimes hadn’t choked and had just stuck to some memorized talking points about why she disagrees with Obama blah blah blah reporters would just nod and go on to the next question. But since Grimes stumbled on process, that is to say she didn’t deploy talking points that sound good, suddenly this is a huge gaffe and Chuck Todd gets to declare her a bad person who can’t possibly be trusted in elected office. But at the same time if some other politician claims that global warming is a giant hoax perpetrated by liberal scientists (or that bike lanes in cities are a plot by the UN), then the Chuck Todds of the world just shrug and go on to the next question.
Jonathan Bernstein recently floated an interesting theory to try and explain this:
Maybe this isn’t so much about the self-interest of reporters (although that is certainly part of it), but their self-absorption. If you spend most of your time watching how politicians interact with the media, then it’s easy to inflate the importance of that comparatively small part of the job of an elected official or even a candidate. Relations with the reporter and his or her colleagues become a stand-in for everything else.
There’s probably something to this. For example academics can get so wrapped up in their subject matter they can think that everything can be explained by their one big theory. The same way historians see events from long ago as the key to understanding why America is a rich country while geographers see geography as the key.
Unfortunately this means that we’re stuck with the shallowness, at least in terms of the stuff written by reporters running around on the campaign trail. Oh well, at least it will be over in a few more weeks.
Like The Good Men Project On Facebook
Photo by Pablo Alcala/AP