The Lines Get Blurrier

Last week, Campaign Desk wrote about how print journalists are increasingly blurring the lines between news reporting and what has traditionally been thought of as punditry. In an interview for that piece, the Washington Post’s David Broder stressed how important it is that print journalists appearing on news shows “keep it at an analysis level.” Broder also talked quite persuasively about how “people who call themselves journalists and go on and argue with each other like politicians” make it difficult for viewers to tell the difference between a journalist and a pundit.

So it was particularly surprising when we tuned in to “Meet The Press” yesterday to find that Broder himself had succumbed to television’s apparently irresistible temptation to make journalists sound suspiciously like partisan operatives. Late in the show, host Tim Russert brought up the fact presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry is considering not accepting his party’s nomination until after the Democrats’ convention. Such a move would let Kerry push back the date that he receives the $75 million in public campaign funds he will be entitled to — and stretch out the time that he’ll be able to spend the money he’s raised himself.

Here’s Broder’s take:

What’s going on is money, money, money. I have to say that we used to blame Republicans as being the party where money really drove everything. It’s the Democrats that are allowing money to drive everything. They moved up the primary campaign dates so that they could have more time in the spring to raise money. Now, they want to move back the nomination time so they can raise more money in the fall. It is ridiculous. They are destroying institution after institution of political significance by this preoccupation with chasing money.

“It’s the Democrats that are allowing money to drive everything”? “They are destroying institution after institution”? Such vague rhetoric isn’t what we think of as keeping it “at an analysis level.” The substantive response to Broder’s criticism is pretty obvious: The Democrats are scheduled to nominate their candidate five weeks before the Republicans, giving Bush more than a month to continue to spend his own money before collecting his $75 million and accepting the accompanying restrictions.

We have a great deal of respect for Broder, who’s been a voice of reason on “Meet The Press” and other shows for as long as we can remember. But when the bright lights are on, even he can’t always resist the lure of the catchy, oversimplified sound bite.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.