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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.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 4:33 PM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
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Comments

So Ezra, how long until you get Froomkin'd? Or are you safe as long as you refrain from more incisive media criticism?

Posted by: tbomb | August 31, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

re: "his 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 it's not "news" that gets supplied in greater amounts, it's froth. The trick is to convince people that froth is news. (Starbucks faced a similar problem, with "coffee" in the place of "news.")

Posted by: bdballard | August 31, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

>>Or are you safe as long as you refrain from more incisive media criticism?>>
Ezra does seem to be consciously trying to excuse the media, esp his employer. Your media corruption at work.

Journalists in general no longer report useful information, and then wonder why their industry is dying.

Ezra could be an exception, but he's not a reporter.

Posted by: fuse | August 31, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Ezra has a good point, but it doesn't explain the near or utter lack of any real substantive or accurate policy coverage in the media in general, particularly with cable news over print media. The 24 hour news cycle enables/forces them to fill the time with bad/horse-race style reporting, but once again, it doesn't explain the near complete lack of good reporting.

Posted by: ch1864 | September 1, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

the circus has its benefits. i mean, some of the sideshows are a way of seeing different point of views from the the traditional, "[access] to a newspaper, a few radio shows, a few nightly newscasts, and maybe a magazine subscription or two."

i think it is up to the reader to then differentiate the utter crap from things worth reading to articles worth sharing.

I don't know about you, but i prefer being able to select from a wide range of commentary to try to understand as many views of a subject as possible.

wait, what am i saying, your Ezra Klein.

Posted by: eriklontok | September 1, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

* you're

Posted by: eriklontok | September 1, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

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