Tom DeLay

The problem with modern journalism is that there are so few real stories out there that deserve the cable news hypercoverage treatment. In between wars and terrorist attacks and election nights, reporters have very little to actually report.

In the United States, political change happens very slowly, so slowly that few people outside the Beltway actually care about the day-to-day jockeying for position between the parties. Most congressional proceedings are insufferably boring, and most political campaigns are even worse. Thus, political types -- press secretaries, communications directors and the like -- have as part of their jobs convincing reporters that today's nothing-burger is actually a corker of a story.

Seasoned reporters make a good living sitting back and waiting to be pitched on the day's possible stories, and they grow accustomed to the spoon-feeding. Add to this natural human inclination toward laziness most political reporters' left-leaning political ideas, and you get the current state of political journalism.

Those who believe bias is the biggest problem have it wrong, I think. The biggest problem is that reporters are perfectly happy to let the stories come to them rather than going out and finding them. The vast majority of all newspaper articles, and political stories in particular, are based on press releases. That's all well and good, except that since reporters are generally more sympathetic to liberalism than conservatism, liberal candidates and organizations can always be guaranteed a more receptive audience for the "paper" they produce than their conservative counterparts. (It goes without saying that those few conservative-leaning journalists out there have the exact opposite problem, of course. If only there were more of them; it'd be a nice problem to have.)

A perfect example of this is the comparative media coverage of the 2004 election's two biggest "gotcha" political stories. The first was the efforts of the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," who were strangely and uniformly ignored by the mainstream media until the blogosphere and talk-radio network made so much noise, elite reporters had to at least take a look at the allegations. Days, even weeks went by before the Kerry campaign was even asked seriously about the charges being made by the Swift Boat Veterans, and today, "swift-boating" has become synonymous with smearing. Most reporters, I think, would argue that Sen. Kerry handled the situation poorly but that the Swift Boat Veterans were engaged in dirty pool.


Tom DeLay

Tom DeLay is the former House Majority Leader, the second ranking leader in the United States House of Representatives, and co-author of No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight.

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