“Cud Chewers” And “Cordwood” on Cable

Some colorfully apt descriptions of the current state of cable news from David Carr in the New York Times:

Gorged on ratings from a historic election and still riding on leftover adrenaline, the cable networks have steadfastly remained in campaign mode. And the hyperbolic rhythms and requirements of a cable news world have never seemed less relevant to the story at hand…

After a recent round of big name renewals and contracts, the cable networks are loaded with red meat eaters and cud chewers. MSNBC is pretty much wall-to-wall politics with a roster to match — the obsessive Chris Matthews, the freakishly partisan Keith Olbermann and the reliably left-leaning Rachel Maddow.

Fox, too, sees politics everywhere, with Bill O’Reilly on the hunt for new enemies every day and Glenn Beck’s increasingly popular atavism. And CNN still has all manner of political boots on the ground — panels stacked like cordwood even though the election is long past.

But, Carr notes

the business of governing, which involves incremental progress and endless negotiations, isn’t a made-for-television event…We’re not waiting for late returns from California any more. Instead, we’re getting unemployment figures from Michigan. While it’s a far less exciting story, it’s a far more important one.

Which is just about the same point my colleague Katia made last week regarding the press’s focus on the president’s tone during his prime time press conference:

[T]he focus on tone demonstrates all over again how the press transforms politics into a blood sport with quantifiable winners and losers, which is disconnected from the significance of actual policy—roads built, hospitals staffed, schools renovated. The impulse to cover the horse race at the cost of the seriousness of governance persists. In this case, if Obama’s the professor, then the press is a bunch of unruly kids who won’t calm down after recess. The election is long behind us, get back to work.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.