Thursday, December 04, 2003

Media Laziness 

There's no doubt that the press as a whole is lazy. There are a lot of reasons for this, and I'll list a few here.

Part of this is IMO due to the fact that the public as a whole doesn't expect much from them anymore, so we've gotten into a viscious cycle: the press performs poorly, people lower expectations, repeat.

Part of this (when it comes to political coverage, at least) is because most of the public doesn't really follow politics closely, so they can get away with covering every race as a horserace of dueling personalities rather than a contest of issues. A prime example of this was campaign 2000. The script said "Gore is smart guy, but he's a liar" and "Bush isn't too bright, but he's trustworthy". I'd bet 90% of the coverage of the campaign was to reinforce this script, rather than a less-sensational analysis of each man's actual positions.

Part of this is just human nature. It's much easier to repeat the conventional wisdom on an issue than it is to get in the weeds and track down knowledgeable people who might have a different take, or
actually contact the people involved and try to straighten everything out. An example of this was again the coverage of campaign 2000. During the first debate, Bush accused Gore of using "fuzzy math" when
Gore described Bush's tax plan as a giveaway to the rich. Rather than actually getting out a calculator and running the numbers, or better yet, giving the numbers to an economist or three and reporting their
findings, the coverage of this issue was essentially "Gore lies about Bush's tax plan". (it should also be noted that Gore's criticism was correct on the merits - the vast majority of the original Bush tax cuts went to people at the top end of the economic spectrum)

A huge part of this is the shift in the attitude of the news companies and their parent entities. In the past, it was pretty much a given that the news division of a media company would be a money sink. Nowadays, there is pressure for the news boys to pull their own weight, so therefore the focus becomes not so much what should be covered as what will get the most people to watch. Case in point: last month, the Michael Jackson perp walk bumped coverage of Bush's speech in England from Nightline, a supposedly "hard news" program.

I'm sure there are more, but this is just a quick rundown.

A consistently good analysis of press laziness and ineptitude when it comes to political coverage can be found at http://www.dailyhowler.com.

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