This, this exactly:
Media coverage of @AOC‘s Green New Deal has focused on “strategy” over substance: asking “is it popular?” instead of “is it a good policy idea?”
That’s called “tactical framing,” and it’s making us more cynical about big policy ideas: pic.twitter.com/BCWtml3X46
— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) March 11, 2019
It’s also a natural consequence of the pundit-to-journalist-to-pundit pipeline, in which people who can only think tactically are paid to tell other people what to think about a policy. I understand why political strategists are obsessed with where something will play and how well and why. I will never understand why journalists think they need to convey those debates to their readers.
This whole mindset has infected journalism as a whole. I remember having a conversation with an editor about whether we should, as a newspaper, call for a local scumbag’s resignation. The editor’s worry was that if we did so, and the scumbag didn’t resign, we’d look weak and people would be less likely to listen to us in the future.
I think my argument to him was something along the lines of HE’S A SON OF A BITCH WHO’S GONNA BURN IN HELL, THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS. You do right, say it loud, and damn the torpedos.
We see this in the obsession over which attacks on Trump land, and how awful it is that none of them do and that his supporters keep supporting him. As if the kids in cages care. As if guilt or innocence in criminal actions rest upon convincing a focus group of overwhelmed suburban moms who watch the Today Show. As if you should be worried, when reporting true facts about the actions of the powerful toward the powerless, how that reporting makes YOU look.
Back to the pundit-journalist finger cuffs: You do become a sociopath in both jobs, and I get that and honor it as a necessary defense mechanism to dealing constantly with the worst parts of society. You see the world under its skin, in both occupations, and you can’t go back to merrily skipping through the cereal aisle the next morning.
But that emotional kinship doesn’t mean the aims of the job are the same. Serving your candidate and serving your readers are not the same thing, and while explaining the complexities of the political process has merit, predicating coverage on the likelihood of a policy initiative getting a favorable vote serves your audience … not at all.