Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Frustrated by Wasington coverage

Even from short remove – only about a month since I was actually engaged with a Washington bureau myself – I have to say that watching the Beltway press corps behave generally isn't pretty.

As a citizen trying to learn what matters in my government, it feels to me like too many of the reporters who ought to be finding out and telling me are instead obsessed with issues like whether pool reporters will always follow the president when he takes the girls for ice cream (who cares?), whether they should agree to anonymous briefings (no), and whether the latest entirely predictable Republican criticism spells the end of Obama's promised bipartisan approach (oh, please).

When they do get down to writing stories, the result too often feels like sushi – sliced so thin you can see through it. They focus on trivia and incrementalism, each tiny step reported new atop eight repetitious graphs of yesterday's incrementalism. They quote people anonymously praising their boss. Now and then you spot something labeled AP IMPACT (all caps), which is at least useful because it signals you to beware of a marginally interesting issue that has been trumped up beyond its worth because the AP got the report leaked first. And so on.

(It won't surprise you to hear that I find the McClatchy bureau reporting far superior in most regards, though there are some folks there inclined to follow the herd, too).

Does this sound harsh? Well, I'm frustrated.

May I remind you of something I told McClatchy newsrooms for years? Even if you think the way I feel about this is my fault, it's your problem. If you don't learn to satisfy changing needs and demands of the audience, somebody else will.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:15 AM

    Time to close out the DC buro. When we're taking reporters off the streets and gutting local newsrooms, we can't be spending money on things we can get elsewhere, cheaper and, frankly, better. Our readers would never notice. And, please, no whinging about the dangers to democracy. Democracy is plenty endangered when we can't even cover the cities where our newspapers are.

    And don't get me started on Pruitt and his fucking salary.