Hey, we’re smarter than you

The Fix spends an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about campaign politics.

Given that, we like to think of ourselves as connoisseurs of the political game — we know what’s good, what’s bad and what’s just plain odd.

In case you didn’t catch it, the writers of WaPo’s The Fix want you to know that they’re super savvy about the political process and they know better than you.

Now, I am prepared to accept this kind of thinking on some level. For instance, most of us would agree that a meteorologist knows more about the weather than we do. They have tools that we don’t have and they have a specialized degree which required them to learn all sorts of things about clouds and wind and moisture and currents. Thus if a meteorologist says hey, I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain today, we’re inclined to listen and take them seriously. But when political reporters say, trust us, we understand all this stuff better than you and here’s what’s happening… should you take them seriously?

It all depends on the reporter in question. Is this a reporter that tries to serve ordinary voters as I describe here? http://www.annatarkov.com/political-reporters-are-often-not-working-for If not, then maybe you don’t really need to listen to them.

After all, unlike the meteorologist, a political reporter possesses no special training (and no, journalism school doesn’t count). She is simply good at collection information, doing some analysis and writing about it. Do these sound to you like unique skills that few people possess? Yeah, I didn’t think so.



  1. Russ Walker November 16, 2010

    I think you’re overreacting. Cillizza says “we like to think of ourselves.” Close readers of his blog know that he plays the role of circus ringmaster with a lot of this stuff, and self parody is a large part of his act.

    To your point about whether Cillizza is “a reporter that tries to serve ordinary voters,” I think the answer is an unequivocal “no!” He writes a blog called “The Fix” that’s aimed at The Post’s Beltway audience. Whether that type of writing is a public service is an open question, but it meets a market need inside Washington.

    As for whether political reporters possess a special skill, maybe not. But like any reporter focused on a specific beat, a top-notch political hack improves with experience.

    Finally, the meteorologist analogy is pretty weak. Most media meteorologists aren’t any more trained than a political reporter. A climatologist, now that’s a different story.

    Cheers, RW

    Full disclosure: Cillizza is a friend and I was one of his editors for a while.

  2. Anna Tarkov November 19, 2010

    Whereas you might have a point in The Fix being overt in serving an inside-the-Beltway audience, does the average reader understand this? Does something flash on their website when someone comes that says “WARNING: This is only for the Washington insiders! If you’re a regular Joe, look elsewhere for your political news!” No it doesn’t. And of course we know that much of national political reporting (and local to a lesser extent) takes this tone whether they call themselves The Fix or not. This “above the fray” or “ringleader” or whatever you want to call this approach must end, at least in free content to the average news consumer. If there is a market for this kind of coverage (and I absolutely agree that there is) make it a paid product that only the insiders will be willing to pay for. Examples: http://thecapitolfaxblog.com/ and http://www.earlyandoften.org/

    Overall I think it’s incredibly flip to say oh well, this might not be beneficial to average news consumers but so what? This IS the central issue. Prominent national political reporters who do this kind of Inside Baseball writing get the most prominence, the highest salaries, the most TV appearances, etc., etc., etc. This means that the reporters actually doing the work that benefits voters are relegated to near obscurity. They don’t want or care about the fame or money. That’s not what this is about. What they DO care about is serving their audiences and helping them make good civic decisions. This is a whole lot better than caring about your career or public image or how nicely coiffed your hair looks on MSNBC.

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