Friday, February 23, 2007

Why Our News Media Sucks

Ezra Klein

Why Punditry Sucks in 96

This is nothing personal to Jonah, but why is he going on NPR today to talk about global warming? Does he actually, uh, know anything about global warming? Forget whether his opinion on it is accurate, given the universe of possible participants in a debate about climatological science, a generalist political journalist from The National Review doesn't sound like the most enlightening choice. Indeed, I shouldn't be on talking about global warming either. Not only haven't I read, but I can't even understand, most of the scientific literature on the issue. NPR's listeners deserve better.

This is, in fact, a pretty generalized problem. I was on CNBC recently talking about the President's health care proposals, and not only did the host have no clue what she was talking about, but the generic political consultant I was matched against was similarly out of his element. The difference between a standard deduction and a tax credit seemed totally misunderstood, and no one had any clue what reform plans were floating around Congress. It was embarrassing. There's no way the audience was elevated by that discussion. And yet, these shows can attract experts. And they can choose journalists, non-profiteers, and others who focus in the relevant issue area. But all too often, they just choose...anybody. Balance overwhelms expertise, media skills -- a function of being repeatedly broadcast on the media -- trump analytical ones. It's a shame.