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How Washington journalism is like the gossip sheets


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April 09, 2006

How Washington journalism is like the gossip sheets

Stephen Baker

Jeff Jarvis notes the similarities between Washington journalism and the celebrity rags. This is true because both industries, Celebrity Inc. and politics, produce only one product: information. Access means everything when you're covering those industries. So, as Jarvis notes, the people controlling the access wield the power to spin.

That's why it's nice to cover industries that produce something other than a message. U.S. Steel can spin all it likes. But the spin is empty noise when their tonnage falls and earnings drop. Politics, of course, has numbers too. But good spinners can figure out how to pin the bad ones on someone else.

Washington journalism would be a whole lot more useful if reporters relegated the spinners to a small corner and concentrated instead on describing the exercise of power--how the place works. In other words, focus less on what might or might not happen tomorrow; instead, study the effects of policies put into place yesterday. This would be covering not what politicians say, but what they do.

10:13 AM

mainstream media

"Celebrity Inc. and politics, produce only one product: information." This spin is not totally true. Politics helps produce dams, roads, jobs and so on.

Posted by: Jim Dermitt at April 9, 2006 12:36 PM

I couldn't post at BuzzMachine! One more thought.

Jarvis wrote, "The only real difference is that politicians aren?? as well-dressed."

Well dressed? That depends on the politician, if you want to be real about it. Some of these Hollywood types dress like bums.

Posted by: Jim Dermitt at April 9, 2006 12:45 PM

The devil is in the details.

The ghost is in the machine.

Work and wages guys.

That's politics.

Posted by: Jim Dermitt at April 9, 2006 02:17 PM

Stephen, I love your last point, "focus less on what might or might not happen tomorrow; instead, study the effects of policies put into place yesterday." I covered politics for several years and found this a daily challenge -- everyone loves a horse race but no one wants to go into the stables and clean up afterward.

Posted by: Gary Goldhammer at April 9, 2006 10:29 PM

Everyone loves a horse race. Not everyone.

Just go to the track and look at the empty seats.

Everyone doesn't show up. It's like election day.

Everyone doesn't vote. Too busy cleaning up other messes or something. Everyone has different ideas about it. What can you count on? What can you do?

If you have your own horse, you may or may not race him. All you can do is ride on.

Posted by: Jim Dermitt at April 10, 2006 10:36 AM


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