Night of the Living Veeps

What is it about John Kerry’s unexceptional search for a running mate that attracts members of the press corps like moths to a bug zapper? Is it love of the horse race? Obsession with process? The campaign press echo chamber at work? The need to fill a news hole with whatever is at hand?

Whatever the reason, a huge volume of ink has been spilled over the process — and we’re very little the wiser for it. Today, the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney and David Halbfinger reheat this moldy leftover, featuring all the classic ingredients: the potential clash of personalities, the sound bites from the primaries, and the anonymously sourced comments from insiders (today, for example, we hear from “one Democrat who speaks to both men, and who, like most people interviewed for this article, did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the selection process.”)

Campaign Desk decided to take a look at how many of these things we’ve been subjected to so far. All told, since June 1, the New York Times has run 9 feature stories about Kerry’s potential running mate and mentioned it in 6 others (including a daily barrage from June 14 to June 20), amounting to roughly a quarter of its 61 stories covering Kerry during that time. During the same period, the Washington Post has run one major veepstakes story and mentioned it in three others, out of 22 Kerry-focused news stories, and USA Today pondered the veepstakes in 3 of its 19 news stories on the Massachusetts senator.

Mercifully, Kerry may announce his pick as early as next week. Note to political reporters and editors: Time to start prepping yet more of those swing voter pieces to fill the yawning gap that will result once you no longer have the guess-the-running-mate blather to fall back upon.

Bryan Keefer

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Bryan Keefer was CJR Daily’s deputy managing editor.