The Media’s Ongoing Schizophrenic Self-Flaggelation

I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Waldman’s takedown of the media for its role in exaggerating Obama’s “private sector is fine” comments:

But that’s the beauty of using “scoring political points” as the standard of judgment. It doesn’t actually mean that any voters were persuaded, or that the race was changed in any meaningful way. It doesn’t actually mean anything. It can mean everything or nothing, and as little as, “I decided to write a column about this.” After all, if a Washington Post reporter has written a column about Mitt Romney’s latest attack, then the attack has, by definition, “scored political points.” It’s an endlessly humming recursive cycle of bullshit.

In case you don’t remember, the media pulled the same sin-and-repent stunt six weeks ago when Hillary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney were all the rage. The media has apparently slipped into a zone of schizophrenic self-awareness where it’s capable of criticizing itself for its misdeeds, but isn’t actually capable of preventing them.

We’ll most-likely keep seeing this “publisher’s remorse” until the media comes to the industry-altering realization that they are vastly oversupplying the necessary number of journalists on 24-hour beats. When you have twice the number of reporters needed to cover the truly important events of the day, half of them will invariably file a story on something not worthy of being a story.

What newspapers should do is take half the reporters on 24-hour beats and assign them to do week or month-long investigative stories that provide real value. That would be an improvement for normal citizens, our political system, and the journalists themselves. But it won’t happen for the same reason I tend to read academic journals and write relatively formulaic blog posts instead of going to science conferences. Doing real reporting is time consuming, it’s risky, and it’s hard. Going to a press conference and writing 500 words about why a meaningless quote is important, is not.

2 Responses to The Media’s Ongoing Schizophrenic Self-Flaggelation

  1. I think there are still some good journalists out there, but for the most part it does seem like everyone goes for the easiest and most obvious angle.

    Still with web journalism growing, maybe we will eventually see a shift back to quality.

  2. erichorowitz says:

    Hopefully. It just seems like we’re still living in a pre-internet age where each media organization thinks they need a reporter to write their own version of the same story.

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