Apologies for my absence yesterday, I was up in Boston, pretending I know something about politics. Also there: Mark Halperin, late of the Note, who gave a brown bag talk at Harvard’s Institute of Politics about the “problems” present in modern political journalism, as observed by him and from his talks with actual campaign professionals.
Shockingly, “absurdly kowtowing to whoever happens to be in power” was not on the list. He did lay into bloggers, who apparently sometimes “taint” their analysis by “engaging in ad hominem attacks.” Also, the blogs of “mainstream” publications are not up to Halperin-approved journalistic grade. Did you know, for instance, that the “New York Times regularly puts stories on its website that don’t make it into the next day’s paper”? Halperin suggested that this disparity stems from the online stories not living up to the printed edition’s rigorous standards.
Halperin also told the group that the MSM does a disservice to its readers when they ascribe “only political motives” to politicians. He cited coverage of Bush’s border policy as an example, saying “all you hear is that Bush is trying to appeal to Hispanic voters,” rather than, for instance, that Bush does care deeply about border protection as a national security issue. Said Halperin, “I guarantee you most of these politicians take these positions because they believe it’s for the good of the country.”
As for those bloggers, the ones “tainted” by having ideological motives — unlike our patriotic politicians, mind you — Halperin generously allowed that “I don’t mind if people blog — but they should apply high standards of journalism,” and “they should focus on news organizations when they fail to meet the standards of the profession,” i.e., accuracy and objectivity. In fact, he said, “the best solution is for serious consumers of news to write letters to the editor.”
Okay then! To the quills, everyone!
UPDATE: Just to clarify, Halperin and I did not appear at the same event. I doubt if he’d deign to share a dais
dias (thanks, moe99) with me, actually. I spoke to a couple of groups of students from the Kennedy School (all very smart and intrigued by Time’s decision to embrace political blogging). As for how the crowd received Halperin’s talk — I was so astonished by his revelations that I didn’t really notice. There were no audible gasps (rather, I don’t think anyone heard me) and there was applause at the end.