Tag Archives: Journalism

The Internet vs Federalism

Such memories as today remain of the late “Tip” O’Neill are, I suspect, propped up by his grammatically tricky dictum “all politics is local.” I don’t really remember Tip, and relied on autocomplete for the spelling of his last name in fact, but I remember this. That having been said, I have increasingly remembered this maxim in a context of something obsolete, as years have gone by.

Today, though, some impressively precocious grouchy-old-man scolding from Millennial pundit Matthew Yglesias suggested one or two new wrinkles to the intersection of local politics and 21st-century America. Yglesias makes the point that plenty of politics is still local or at least sub-national, even though Democrats’ focus (and, I would argue, America’s generally to a great extent) has been swallowed up by the presidency.

I don’t disagree with this, but I did have to question Yglesias’s grounds for his tone of righteous lecturing. Both his own product and that of his employer, Vox, as a whole devote much much more attention to national and above all presidential politics than to anything else. (Consider that America has elections this fall but about 99% of Vox‘s considerable  elections coverage in 2015 has been about 2016 races.) Thinking about this, though, I had to ask myself: what gets more clicks?

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Peak President

The proposal that America fixates too much on the presidency is not exactly new or novel.

It has probably been more than a decade since I began marking midterm elections’ completion by suggesting, sourly, that “it’s so nice this is out of the way, and journalists can devote themselves exclusively to presidential politics once again.” I believe it has been at least a few years since Matthew Yglesias argued—I don’t recall whether it was at Vox or Slate, and in any event it was probably not a totally new suggestion—that liberals in particular have invested too much in pursuit of the White House while neglecting every other component of American government. Earlier this year, Yglesias’s Vox colleague Dylan Matthews wrote an essay suggesting that the eventual outcome of America’s political dysfunction will be neither collapse nor coup but, instead, gradual transformation of the presidency into an “elective dictatorship.” I found Matthews’s scenario quite easy to imagine.

Today, though, it occurred to me that revisiting this issue might permit some fruitful juxtaposition of two or three phenomena that have been bugging me, lately.

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The Cleveland Plain Dealer Fails, Fibs

One week ago, the Plain Dealer published an item by Mr. Ted Diadun about “The challenge of covering a race when there is no race.” Like a lot of things involving the Plain Dealer in the 21st century, it’s basically just a lot of sad piled on top of more sad. Essentially, Diadun indulges in some whining about what an unreasonable hardship it is for his colleagues that the Democratic candidate for governor has sunk low in the polls and looks unlikely to revive. Even we can’t fake a competitive horse-race narrative from this, it’s just unfair!, etc. Then, Diadun goes on to announce that, events having simply forced abandonment of standard practices, the Plain Dealer will actually publish some information about other state races (but only the big two party nominees, of course)! 

You could just picture Diadun with his chest puffed out, simply beaming with pride about what good sports he and his pals are, and how generous it is of them to make such an effort for the community in this way. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to summon up the adulation he seemed to be anticipating. I just couldn’t work out a coherent concept of what he believes political journalism is for, making it difficult to evaluate the Plain Dealer‘s predicament and response on its own terms.

I wrote an e-mail to Mr. Diadun outlining my questions. His official profile declares: “As the reader representative, I encourage comments, complaints, suggestions, compliments, debates, questions about fairness or anything else dealing with The Plain Dealer that a reader might want to talk about. I respond to calls and e-mails…” Sadly, a week has gone by and I still have received no response from “the reader representative.” More sadly, I have never received any response to any missives directed to tdiadiun@plaind.com and must conclude that “I respond to calls and e-mails” is basically just empty BS. Saddest of all, possibly, this may have something to do with the fact that Mr. Diadun has no good answers to the following questions. You be the judge:

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