The Rise of the Circus
One other point about the relative dominance of horse-race-style political coverage is that the velocity of the news has really increased in the past few years. It used to be that every individual had access to a newspaper, a few radio shows, a few nightly newscasts, and maybe a magazine subscription or two. Now that same person has access to every newspaper, every radio station, blogs, online news sites, most magazines, talk radio, cable news channels, newsletters, Twitter and a handful of delivery vehicles I'm probably forgetting.
This has a sort of Say's Law effect, in which the supply of more news has created a demand for more news, or at least something like it. The problem is that there's not really a lot more news than there was 50 years ago, and issues don't move a lot faster. So instead, we get something like news but that moves a lot faster than actual news. Coverage of "the debate," for instance. Or of polls, of which there are certainly many more today than there were a generation ago. Or of things people have said on the Internet. Or of town halls.
Back in the day, when you had to decide what was and wasn't important, a lot of the circus and the back-and-forth got left in the editing room. You didn't have much room for anything beyond a quick summary of the facts. Today, when you can pretty much report everything, you check the box of the actual news and then fill the rest of the time with the circus. And since there's a lot more time but not a lot more news, the circus begins to crowd everything else out.
August 31, 2009; 4:33 PM ET
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