More on Journalists

I guess it’s a theme today, as Hilzoy hits more or less the same note, in passing, I pressed on Jake Tapper today (and incidentally I notice that my critical comment on Tapper’s comment page has been scrubbed. Imagine that).

And yet McCain gets basic, basic facts wrong, and he does it over and over again.

So why do our newspapers think this is not worth covering? I can think of a couple of answers.

First, the reporters who cover McCain might not know much about policy, and thus might not notice when he gets something spectacularly wrong. I suspect this is true, and it’s a huge problem: if those reporters are not supposed to evaluate what McCain says, or ask whether or not it’s true, how do they differ from mere stenographers? And why not just save money and have a video camera follow him around?

And that basically sums it up. Reporters jobs are to sell papers (or get eyeballs on their internet blogs). They do that by focusing on the minute, on the back and forth, on the conflict of electoral politics. Wading into the boring details of geopolitics, sectarian Islam, cap-and-trade, or whatever loses readers. As such, media outlets don’t put a high premium on reporters that are particularly knowledgeable about policy. Which is not to say that all reporters are idiots, there are some that have a general handle on at least their area of primary coverage. But for every person like Andrea Mitchell, there’s 4 or 5 people like Jake Tapper who exist just to pull in eyeballs (and thus ad revenue), who will inevitably say ridiculously stupid things like “what does it mean that Saudi Arabia wants the West to lower gas taxes?,” and miss basic, blatant, completely erroneous statements about policies they don’t begin to comprehend.