Nearly all political journalism is worthless

Ezra Klein’s list of reasons why most political journalism has very little value:

  1. Campaigns don’t really matter. Elections are largely decided by the fundamentals of the economy. The graphs in this article would’ve done more to predict the 2008 election than reading Politico every day.
  2. Presidential speeches don’t matter much, either.
  3. Nor does the executive’s legislative strategy, come to think of it. Politics is much more interesting when it’s told as the story of the executive, but in fact, the rules and composition of the Congress decide 80 percent of everything — including the president’s legislative priorities and strategy.
  4. Polls are useful for measuring impressions but very bad for measuring beliefs.
  5. The media is a political actor, not an observer.
  6. Pretty much no one watches cable news.
  7. What you emphasize is a lot more important than what you report. People don’t read you closely.

I’d say that coverage that explains the implications of policy choices is important, but that coverage of why it’s happening is almost always wrong, and nearly worthless even when it’s right. People in general prefer a dramatic, personal narrative that describes day to day events, but most of the time events are dictated by broad trends and path dependence. Those stories aren’t very interesting to write or read, so the market dictates that journalists make up a narrative to describe events instead.

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