Lots of back and forth on why there is so much horse-race coverage in the media. I think that the general sense that horse-race stuff is a little easier than mastering the math on, say, health-care is right. Moreover, journalists sometimes pull the objectivity stunt, not to honor their craft, but to avoid being tainted as bias. Still, I think Ezra is basically right:
This is the market getting more efficient. This is the market learning how to deliver more of what people want (Sarah Palin) and less of what they don't want (the difficulties of adjusting Medicare payment rates). If policy stories begin swamping servers, people will hire more policy reporters. But there's not much evidence of that happening. That's not to say there's no room for substantive policy coverage. But the more eyeballs matter, the less substantive coverage there'll be, and I don't think it'll be the fault of reporters. A lot of the policy coverage that happens right now exists not because the audience wants it, but because the media decides they need it. As the market becomes competitive, that type of reportorial paternalism will become less and less viable.
Tough medicine. It's always more comforting to think that some all-powerful being (rich white men, the media, big business etc.) has brainwashed "The People." But when you start delving into this stuff, you realize that often those institutions are performing in the service of actual human beings, many of them not so rich, and not so powerful.
"The People" aren't noble. And they aren't evil, either. After dealing with my own writing, with my own family, and with my own person, I find it difficult to muster the energy to master the details of climate change. And I write for a living. But damn if I can barely keep my living room clean.
I thought about this last week while attempting to follow through on a promise to my family, to cook more. I grew up in household where my Dad cooked. My cornbread game is not to be slept on. But cooking right, and cleaning right is hard work, and takes a lot of time. There is a reason people go to McDonald's every night for dinner. Perhaps the reason isn't a good one, but it's not stupid or pathological.
Ditto with political coverage. The shouting heads exist for a reason--we invented them.