Wednesday, March 26, 2008

the meaning of fewer reporters on the campaign trail

Fascinating story on the front page of today's New York Times about what the economic reality of the journalism business is doing to campaign coverage -- namely, that fewer print media organizations are sending reporters on the road to cover the candidates full-time. As the story notes, the effects of this are obvious:
Traveling campaign reporters say they try to do more than just regurgitate raw information or spoon-fed news of the day, which anyone who watches speeches on YouTube can do. The best of them track the evolution and growth (or lack thereof) of candidates; spot pandering and inconsistencies or dishonesty; and get a measure of the candidate that could be useful should he or she become [sic] president.
With more and more newspapers cutting back on expenses and relying on wire services for on-the-road coverage, there are fewer eyes and ears to offer any kind of additional perspective. And competition, at least in the world of ideas, is good for consumers -- especially educated discerning consumers of news and information. The Times' story rightly notes that there is a lot of "pack journalism" out there -- those clusterfucks where everybody's asking the same question and getting the same answer. Sometimes, of course, clusterfucks can't be helped. But the best in the business find a way to mine for more -- talking to a candidates' advisers or other sources away from the fray, paying attention to non-verbal cues, making an extra phone call, etc. The increasing reliance on wire services, or on bloggers not getting a first-hand glimpse of the candidates on a day-to-day basis, does not, at least to my mind, bode well for us. All of us.

UPDATE: I changed the word "educated" to "discerning" above, since, upon further review, discerning readers need not necessarily be educated. The importance of editors can never be underestimated.

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