In the same way health care reform and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell affect folk outside the Beltway more tangibly than they do senators and presidents, or pundits and bloggers, the policies discussed in the SOTU have a very human, almost apolitical face. This is more than stating the obvious. And it is similarly true that it’s not anything new to say we must always remember those who are on the ground when reporting on the policies that will affect them. But it can be easily forgotten in this call-write-push-publish-next age of the hungry digital media’s maw.

So as we report on the political implications of the State of the Union address, let’s also remember to bear in mind those outside the academy—the popcorn-munchers who have to sit through the movie—and focus our reporting on just how they might be impacted by the president’s plans, regardless of their political shrewdness. The State of the Union, in one sense, is an appropriately theatrical launch to that most outrageously theatrical, shallowly reported, hyperventilating, draining, and fascinating quadrennial (sort of) event: the presidential election campaign. It would be worth a bipartisan standing ovation if we kicked it off in the right thoughtful style.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.