Committing Journalism

I’m not a political journalist, so maybe it’s a little bit easier for me to make fun of the whole process without feeling too much shame or accountability. But I sure am enjoying Joshua Micah Marshall giving voice to the vague discomfort he feels at the way the thing is done. This morning it was the bizarre way in which one covers the Democratic debate “in person” by watching it on a big-screen TV with a bunch of other journalists. Why not just stay in your hotel and watch it on TV there?

Seeing it in person would certainly add something to one?s reportage. But you never see it in person. Generally how it works is this: You?re in a big complex and there?s one large hall set aside for the actual debate. In that room you have the candidates, a few of their handlers, the moderator/questioners and the audience. Oftentimes you?ll have a tiny handful of journalists there too — but only ones from the highest echelon of the elect. Maybe a Koppel or a Mitchell — folks like that.

Everyone else is in a big room somewhere nearby with a bunch of long school room tables arranged as they might be for an SAT test in high school. And space after space at those tables is occupied by journalists with laptops open, a phone at each station, perhaps some other paraphernalia nearby or a parka, watching the debate on a series of big TVs.

In other words, they?re watching the debate on TV just like you are. Only they?re doing it in a big room with all the other journalists.

Now, this can be kind of fun, because you get to see a lot of other people you know, and a number you haven?t seen in a while. And you get a very good sense of how other reporters think everybody did. But that can be a pretty skewed view, an echo chamber in the making in ways you can probably imagine, even if you don?t spend much time talking to the really egregious above-it-all conventional wisdom types.