Peters’s story is a pretty good place to start when contemplating all of this noise. He seems to have Politico’s measure, even if he treads a little softly in calling it out.
In some ways, political news sites have changed the threshold for what is news, and the result is often a greater emphasis on the horse race—the kind of who’s up, who’s down reporting that proves endlessly frustrating for candidates and many readers.
Politico, for example, has published at least 36 articles in which Sarah Palin was a principal figure in the last month. In the last week and a half alone, the site has characterized her political fortunes as slipping, on Jan. 18 (the article explained her “incremental” but “significant” drop in favorability); indeterminate, on Jan. 20 (one writer cautioned those who underestimate her “do so at their own risk”); and imperiled again, on Jan. 22 (an article noted her “disconnect” with New Hampshire voters).
And there’s this anecdote, which provides Peters’s kicker.
Mr. Pawlenty, the Republican former governor, at a Barnes & Noble last week here in Manchester, observed to a group of reporters that he was asked about polls and the horse race more than anything else. “It’s like, ‘O.K. Now can we talk about health care or taxes?’ ” he said.
Ms. Marr, the Politico reporter, was not deterred. She followed up with a twist on the standard horse race question: “Are you getting tired of the Sarah Palin question?”
Peters asks the obvious question early on in his piece, “How much is too much?” and gets executive editor Jim VandeHei to concede that, theoretically, a too-much point may exist, “but we certainly haven’t discovered it.” In the press release VandeHei says much the same, issuing a warning: “We think there needs to be more velocity and information—not less. No other news organization will be able to match our early and sustained commitment to covering the 2012 campaign.”
One thing that’s missing, though, from Peters’s story and the Politico press release, is just whom exactly Politico 2012 LIVE is for. “2012 LIVE is based on our belief that political junkies cannot get enough news and analysis on the election,” VandeHei says in the release. But who is the political junkie that VandeHei speaks of? The junkie so myopically focused that he or she cares to read what the most faceless of local political fixers has done in the past twenty-four hours? If that is your target market, are you really issuing a challenge to “other news organizations” that actually make editorial decisions about what is to be considered news? Or are you just flexing your muscles and filling some bandwidth? And, admittedly, providing other political journalists and lobbyists some decent background color.
Peters writes that, in some ways, “political news sites have changed the threshold for what is news.” It seems they might have bet on doing away with the threshold completely.