Blame Reporters, Bloggers And Readers…

Yesterday, Washington Post ombud Andrew Alexander wrote about readers’ requests for “more explanatory journalism” on health care reform (and less “politics and process”). Alexander found that “of roughly 80 A-section stories on health-care reform since July 1, all but about a dozen focused on political maneuvering or protests.” (He also quoted Trudy Lieberman, a CJR contributer whose excellent coverage of health care-related press coverage can be found here).

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman chimes in on his blog, noting that “horse race”-style coverage is “easier” and “safer” to report and write, and that

Even if you know the policy issues, writing them so you don’t totally lose your audience is really tricky — I’ve spent years trying to learn the craft, and it still often comes out way too dry. On the other hand, horse-race stuff can be full of personal details.

Kevin Drum weighs in on his (wonky?) blog and doesn’t let wonky bloggers (or readers) off the hook:

I don’t think mainstream news outlets have ever been all that good at explaining policy, but they’ve probably gotten worse over the years as attention spans have shortened and the media environment has gotten ever louder and more ubiquitous. You really can’t explain healthcare reform in two minutes, but fewer and fewer people are willing to sit around for much longer than that.

The fault, in other words, lies not in the media, but in ourselves. The mainstream media may have written ten times as much about the townhalls as they did about the actual substance of the healthcare proposals on the table, but the blogosphere only did a little better. Even here in wonkland, the outrage of the day is a much more tempting blog topic than reimbursement rates for Medicare.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.