Noting the media’s trivial pursuit of rising star Rick Santorum, my colleague Erika Fry has called for more substantive reporting on the candidate’s past and policy visions. I say “amen,” and applaud the fact the AP at least devoted a somewhat lengthy story to his call for immediate cuts to Social Security benefits. “We can’t wait 10 years,” Santorum told a New Hampshire crowd, and the AP reported he was “looking to set himself apart from his Republican rivals” who believe in a gradual phased-in approach to cutting Social Security that doesn’t take money away from those already receiving benefits.

The AP made an important point here, reporting “politicians typically suggest phase-in periods of up to a decade when broaching the topic of changing Social Security to avoid grievous consequences from angering older voters.” And late in the piece it laid out snippets of where the other candidates stand on Social Security.

Santorum argued that everyone must sacrifice now because the nation’s “house is on fire,” the cause of which, he said, is the soaring federal debt. In Ft. Dodge, Iowa, last week, the candidate argued: “We need to change benefits for everybody now…. Is everybody going to take a little bit of a hit? No, but a lot of people will,” he said. The AP reported this, but what he was saying on the stump got little attention then. How can Santorum want to change benefits for everyone, without everyone taking a hit? I’m confused; readers would be too.

The AP doesn’t call out that contradiction but does say Santorum wants tighter restrictions on benefits for upper-income people and says changes should include a higher eligibility age to qualify for benefits. The age for receiving full benefits soon rises to age sixty-seven. Does Santorum mean Americans should wait longer than age sixty-seven? Specifics please!That’s the policy vision Fry said was missing so far. If the electorate is being asked to sacrifice, at least they should know how they’re supposed to do that.

According to the AP, Santorum “did not offer details” about his Social Security plan but said wealthy retirees’ proportionate benefits should be trimmed further. What does wealthy mean in his lexicon? It’s good to know he did not offer details. But a better idea as the campaign progresses is to ask him such a question point blank and report his answer. If a slippery candidate doesn’t dot the Is and cross the Ts, the press surely should.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.