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You want your horse-race journalism? Politico has your horse-race journalism. The headline atop its site right now reads "Experts see double-digit Dem losses." Big, bold type for a big, exciting story about an election that is still more than 400 days away.

There are types of horse-race journalism that make sense. Learning about Chuck Grassley's primary challenge, for instance. But asking prognosticators to project an election that's more than a year in the future? That's just political entertainment. It's not news. It's news-entertainment. It looks like news, and it appeals to people who think they're interested in news, but it's fundamentally a way for junkies to have fun during the workday.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 5:28 PM ET
 
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Comments

Once at a dinner party, someone made the comment to Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman that they couldn't talk about physics because they didn't know anything about it.

Feynman rather astutely pointed out: "On the contrary, it's because someone knows something about it that we can't talk about physics. It's the things that nobody knows about that we can discuss. We can talk about the weather; we can talk about social problems; we can talk about psychology; we can talk about international finance... so it's the subject that nobody knows anything about that we can all talk about!"

Hence the media's eagerness to talk about Democratic losses in a race that's more than a year away. It's literally impossible to predict. It's impossible for anyone to say anything but the most trite and shallow things about it right now. It's the most perfect topic imaginable for the pseudo-journalism that dominates Washington.

This is the fundamental perniciousness of the talking heads model of reporting. It's only the things that nobody knows anything about that most generalists can comfortably talk about.

Posted by: theorajones1 | August 31, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

TRUE theorajones1!!!

The opposite condition -- when one actually _knows_ about something -- makes for a much more difficult, but ultimately much more enriching, conversation. Millay one wrote a poem beginning "Euclid alone has looked on beauty bare"... looses meaning if you can see no advantage in seeing a harmony of dots and lines and looses all meaning if you do not know who Euclid is and what he did.

Bread and circuses dominate our political and media life. Somehow, a leader has to deliver a message of bread, circuses, and Monte Carlo analysis complete with an obscure and ultimately indefensible message of humanity. Tough job.

Posted by: rmgregory | August 31, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

now you got it.

Posted by: HalHorvath | August 31, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

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