George Packer may not be right about Twitter, but he’s right on in his assessment of political journalism. In this blog post he calls out specific writers in specific pieces for focusing entirely on political performance and perception.
Importantly, he puts this sort of empty journalism side-by-side substantive reporting on other issues in order to better illustrate its uselessness:
A war or an economic collapse has a reality apart from perceptions, which imposes a pressure on reporters to find it. But for some reason, American political coverage is exempt.
It’s not a very long post and it’s worth reading the whole thing. In a previous post I noted that “Much of what we today consider ‘political journalism’ is junk and not very useful from a civic perspective.”
This is an entirely unoriginal sentiment, echoed constantly throughout the blogosphere, particularly during election cycles. But it’s true. And Packer does a nice job calling out specific examples.
For a lengthier assessment of the problem, James Fallows’ 1996 Atlantic piece Why Americans Hate the Media is a great read.
UPDATE: Jay Rosen has a nice related post titled The Quest for Innocence and the Loss of Reality in Political Journalism. Definitely worth a read.