Still, though, the media need to be framing candidates’ economic policies in terms of how they’ll affect people. That’s a large part of their job. The initial exchange between Wurzelbacher and Obama was, above all, a great example of the give-and-take that should be occurring between the candidates and the voters; it’d be great if the media would make themselves part of that conversation. As Clint put it today on The Kicker, “As Joe The Plumber enjoys his 15 minutes, would it be too much to ask that some of that time be devoted to fair-minded determinations of how the candidates’ respective tax and health care plans would affect people like Joe? How about to finding out roughly how many Americans are in situations roughly similar to Joe?”

While we’re asking those questions, it’s also worth wondering why, exactly, we have an impulse toward irony when it comes to people like Joe. And whether that impulse might just have something to do with the fact that so many Americans mistrust the media.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.