Encouragingly, there have been a few stories this week filling in the space between Santorum’s rough edges. While not comprehensive, The New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg has a decent primer on the candidate here, explaining:

On the campaign trail, he makes the case that traditional marriage is one prescription for the nation’s economic ills. During a swing through South Carolina this fall, he dropped in on a Christian radio station, where the host of the drive-time talk show, Tony Beam, asked Mr. Santorum how social issues would play in an election dominated by the economy.

Mr. Santorum did not miss a beat, launching into a long discourse on how single-parent homes spawn poverty and government intervention. “Government gets bigger,” he argued, “when families get weaker.”

There are also a growing number of stories—like these of The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson and National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein describing Santorum’s “compassionate conservatism”—and comparing his candidacy to that of Pat Buchannan’s in 1996.

And as Mike Allen pointed out in Playbook this morning, a few papers followed Bloomberg News’s lead on a substantive story—“Santorum Becomes Millionaire After Senate Loss”—about Santorum cashing in on his D.C. connections after losing his senate seat in 2006.

These are good starts, but as America starts to learn about—and seriously consider for President—Santorum, there’s a serious need for substantive reporting about the candidate’s past and his policy visions.

Longtime Santorum-antagonist and Philadelphia Daily News reporter Will Bunch gets the ball rolling, by sharply raising some unexplored issues in “The Santorum that America doesn’t know”. While presidential candidate deserve hard scrutiny, not every story needs an acid touch. There are lots more genteel stories—as basic as spelling out Santorum’s economic positions vis a vis Romney’s and Paul’s—waiting to be reported out there too.

Who will get them done in time for voters to find them useful?

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Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.