Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tracking the Media Beast

An interesting, though ultimately wrong, argument from Joshua Green as to why Rand Paul has suddenly faced so much scrutiny and controversy:
…the local Kentucky media--in particular the newspapers, and especially the flagship Louisville Courier-Journal--has been decimated by job cuts, as has happened across the country. This came up several times in discussions with Kentucky politicos and local journalists. The reason it matters is that because there is no longer a healthy, aggressive press corps--and no David Yepson-type dean of political journalists--candidates don't run the same kind of gauntlet they once did. They're not challenged by journalists. And since voters aren't as well informed as they once were (many are "informed" in the sense of having strongly held views about all manner of things--they're just not "well informed"), they can't challenge the candidates either.

But watch the Maddow segment that started this whole imbroglio:


As is pretty clear, Maddow had collected a few different sources (NPR and the Louisville Courier-Journal interview) and confronted Paul with it. The original question, it seems, came from the Louisville paper and so would directly contradict Green’s point that an insufficiently aggressive local media caused us to have a relatively unvetted candidate.

What I think actually happened is the strange way the media works these days, whereby it’s not a sufficient condition to merely be interesting, you also have to hit the right moment. Clearly, the right moment in this case was the combination of Maddow’s show and Paul winning. In the weird Richard Blumenthal-Vietnam controversy, it was the right combination of the Times and the Linda McMahon campaign. But that combination has to be just right—to strike a nerve or whatever cliché you’d like to say about the right story finding the right minds in the right conditions—because as we’ve seen, Lindsey Graham hasn’t been similarly drummed out of respectability for deceptions that are similar to Blumenthal’s. The media, these days, is too strange and too big a beast to make any confident predictions about its behavior.

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