Adam’s got a terrific story at the Phoenix, asking how our local media (including chez nous) could get away with covering so little substance in the campaign, so little that would actually indicate what might happen in the next four years:
Its embarrassing to be this half-assed after covering the governors race for almost two years. My consolation, such as it is, is that Im not the only member of the press whos frustrated by his or her grasp of key public-policy issues or who thinks that, collectively, we may have let Massachusetts down.
One reporter I spoke with recently rattled off a slew of key topics taxes, the MCAS, charter schools (also here–ed), the funding mechanism for local aid and offered this disheartening assessment: The problem is, I feel like I dont understand any more about any of these issues than I did before the whole thing started. No one has made any sense of these things. Thats our job, and I dont think weve done it.
I hear that. But why? Well, those issues (I would have added health care) are really complicated, and don’t necessarily lend themselves to deadline-driven journalistic product. But they do all deal with facts, and strange to say, this is dangerous for journalists too, since they might have to actually take a stand on which candidate is factually correct, thereby potentially losing the appearance of neutrality.
Let’s face it: If the campaign is just a game played for subjective style points, then anyone can be a judge: “Oooh, that was a good line!” “That’ll never work!” etc. No homework or wonkery required. I’m not saying that all journalists are lazy all the time … but I do know what’s easier to put out on a deadline.
And I think we at BMG have been guilty of the same “reactiveness” as the rest. Luckily, we do get sick of the rat-a-tat-tat here, and talk real issues from time to time, in great detail. Our commenters on this site bring an astonishing array of experience, insight and talent. Just today I was looking up info on Question 3, and found the best back-and-forth right here, on these very pages. No better in the Commonwealth, folks, and you’re doing it.
But you know, we’re not professionals here. Adam is right to take the Globe to task. Did you really need to know so much about Killer Coke, Taj Deval, whether Deval is really a prosecutor (note to Globe: he is), or any number of other sideshows? Is that important to you on a daily basis?
So yeah, I’ll be happy when this campaign is over, and we can start talking policy again. Doesn’t that sound strange to say?