Fifteen years ago, I did a cover story in the magazine called "Why Americans Hate the Media." After the jump I have a long passage from the article, whose main point was to compare the questions that "actual people" -- students, parents-of-students, retirees, workers -- asked presidential candidates, with the questions that professional journalists asked. As I put it then:
>>In the 1992 presidential campaign candidates spent more time answering questions from "ordinary people"--citizens in town-hall forums, callers on radio and TV talk shows--than they had in previous years. The citizens asked overwhelmingly about the what of politics: What are you going to do about the health-care system? What can you do to reduce the cost of welfare? The reporters asked almost exclusively about the how: How are you [Bill Clinton] going to try to take away Perot's constituency? How do you answer charges that you have flip-flopped?>>
The Boston Globe has prepared a comparison of the 13,000 questions that Twitter users sent in for today's session with President Obama, versus the questions asked by professional journalists at White House briefings over the past two weeks.
Surprise! Nineteen years have passed since those 1992 studies, all sorts of new technologies exist, the mainstream media have been in turmoil -- but the contrast is exactly the same. Policies from the public, politics from professionals.
For a discussion of these patterns, see rc3.org. I mention this because so many readers have written in to note the parallel. Thanks to them for their attention. Passage from earlier article (and this book) after the jump.