‘Political Reporters are Momentum Junkies’

At Slate, Timothy Noah wonders why The Washington Post gave prominent play to a fairly modest boost in polling support for the public option, and floats a few answers. They’re not mutually exclusive, but this one seems most compelling:

Political reporters are momentum junkies, forever plotting out momentary trends to infinity. If they were meteorologists, they’d interpret 90-degree temperatures in July to predict 160-degree temperatures in December. This is true even when they know circumstances will change. Reporters were fully aware that once the health reform bill cleared the Senate finance committee, it would be combined with a version passed by the Senate health committee that contains a public option. Yet it was greeted as revelation that this would cause negotiators to consider the public option anew (“Baucus: Public Option ‘Alive’”). With the public option suddenly plunked in front of their noses, political reporters look to public polls to find an objective correlative. A three-point rise becomes a Page One “rebound.”

Bonus points to Noah for use of the phrase “objective correlative.”

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.