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A kind reader raised a good question about my “Bloggingheads” stare-down with Glenn Greenwald. Looking back, I agree I was a little too blase about BBQ-Style coverage of politics. Though there is a more appropriate food-based metaphor available! He’s kindly allowed me to reproduce our discussion here.

Key quote:

The media marketplace is like a supermarket, filled with stuff that’s good for you and bad for you, and some things that are sort of good for you but mostly just tasty. The American public is offered lots of the third, some of first, and too much of the second.

You may well ask why do I content myself with producing candy (or maybe something a little more nutritious, when I’m being good), when I would be doing so much good for the world if I farmed kale and other leafy greens…. And, if you were to ask that, this is how I’d answer: I am a [not very good] farmer, but I’m really good at making tasty, mildly healthy… oh let’s say carrot cake. But I also love kale! So I try to buy it when it’s available, and spread the word about it when I happen onto a particularly delicious batch.

The rest is after the jump.

Ben
To: anamariecox
quick honest question:

don’t you think reporters should be at least a little concerned with appearances? do you ride your argument all the way out? if there was a reporter who did manage to go to weekly bbqs at the mccain ranch, but his reporting was impeccable, would he be a model for other reporters?

ben

Ana Marie Cox
To: Ben

I think a reporter should be concerned with appearances to the extent that he or she thinks it effects their livelihood.

As to your last question: You should probably ask Robert Novak himself rather than go through me…

Ben
To: Ana Marie Cox

I understand where you are coming from, I think. So if we stipulate that your relationship with mccain has literally no negative effect on your reporting and possibly even has a positive effect by allowing him to be more comfortable and engage in true dialog etc.

Do you have enough faith in all other reporters that you wouldn’t worry whether or not they might be compromised by a close relationship with a politician (mccain or otherwise)? Isn’t an adversarial norm for relationships between the powerful and those who cover them valuable in itself?

Even if we lose something by stifling reporters mature and reflective enough to have significant social relationships with politicians without compromising their work (maybe it’s even enhanced!), I am pessimistic enough about the media writ large to forego that bonus.

Do you see what I mean? Say I like to pin my social security number to my chest. Maybe I can trust you not to steal my identity and pilfer my bar mitzvah money, but perhaps we should probably keep and enforce the norm against such fashion anyway?

thanks for the speedy response, hooray new media

ben

Ana Marie Cox
To: Ben

I’m quite confident that there are reporters who have made the same analysis that you have, and have chosen to curtail their relationships with sources. I totally respect that — it’s just not the choice I’ve made. instead, I’ve made the decision to be completely transparent about my relationships, and to let readers decide if what I offer them is worth reading, knowing that I have those relationships. Again: there are a lot of different kinds of journalists, and different approaches to what journalism even means. I wouldn’t want a world where the only kind of journalism is what I do, I wouldn’t want a world where the only kind of journalism is what Josh Marshall does.

Where this gets complicated is in the marketplace, which — as the Fed knows — is not always filled with rational actors who choose the most deserving representations of different products. The media marketplace is like a supermarket, filled with stuff that’s good for you and bad for you, and some things that are sort of good for you but mostly just tasty. The American public is offered lots of the third, some of first, and too much of the second.

You may well ask why do I content myself with producing candy (or maybe something a little more nutritious, when I’m being good), when I would be doing so much good for the world if I farmed kale and other leafy greens…. And, if you were to ask that, this is how I’d answer: I am a [not very good] farmer, but I’m really good at making tasty, mildly healthy… oh let’s say carrot cake. But I also love kale! So I try to buy it when it’s available, and spread the word about it when I happen onto a particularly delicious batch.

Bon appetit.

amc

Ben
To: Ana Marie Cox

Maybe you can come up with a nutrition facts sticker for various media sources.

But I guess I was a little uncomfortable with how vehemently you were spreading the gospel of carrot cake on bloggingheads. Greenwald is maybe a somewhat bitter and abrasive broccoli rabe, so i can see ending up on the defensive a little.

But things like the gridiron and the correspondents dinner sort of make me think we’ve got a bunch of poison frosting factories posing as organic farms. I feel like we should encourage the true farmers as much as possible, even if it means having to weather their self-righteousness.

[snip]

I can get on board with a worldview that allows for a diversity of styles. But I really just don’t want the primary sources of mccain coverage for most americans hanging out at rancho relaxo all the time.

i’d be interested in your nomination for egg white omelette of campaign coverage.

Maybe The Daily Show? Light but nutritious? And, for what it’s worth, weathering self-righteousness is probably worth it, but I prefer basking in the glow of mutual admiration. We’ll get there.

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