Seven stories Politico fears
7 narratives politico is fighting in their efforts to get an interview with the President
1. They are more interested in readers than accuracy
2. Its okay to be wrong every once in a while, if your are the first to break the news
3. More interested in gossip than news
4. A spouter of the worst sort of insider conventional wisdom
5. Their analysis about obama has been wrong more than any one
6. Click ... period
7. More obsessed with personality than policy
Cute. And good for everyone involved: Politico gets traffic, and the prestige of being in a spat with the White House. And the White House gets credit for not being media-obsessed, even though they'll be back to leaking stuff to Politico tomorrow. If they ever stopped.
But this misses the mark a little bit. Politico isn't afraid of being known as the most sensationalistic, horse-race-oriented, controversy-focused news outlet. That's their business model, or at least the business model of the front page (the stuff inside Politico is a lot better, presumably because it's aimed at lobbyists and Hill staffers). What Politico -- and other campaign-obsessed outlets -- fear are the narratives that expose much of their work as simple distractions. What they fear, I think, is political science. Here's a different list:
1)Campaigns don't really matter. Elections are largely decided by the fundamentals of the economy. The graphs in this article would've done more to predict the 2008 election than reading Politico every day.
2) Presidential speeches don't matter much, either.
3) Nor does the executive's legislative strategy, come to think of it. Politics is much more interesting when it's told as the story of the executive, but in fact, the rules and composition of the Congress decide 80 percent of everything -- including the president's legislative priorities and strategy.
4) Polls are useful for measuring impressions but very bad for measuring beliefs.
5) The media is a political actor, not an observer.
6) Pretty much no one watches cable news.
7) What you emphasize is a lot more important than what you report. People don't read you closely.
The problem with political reporting is not, as some would have it, simple sensationalism. It's that the premises they're sensationalizing are often wrong. Campaigns don't matter as much as the media would have you believe. Presidents don't matter as much as the media would have you believe. This stuff isn't done in bad faith, but it's still bad.
December 1, 2009; 2:24 PM ET
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