As the wisest and most powerful actors in California’s
journalistic and political words, Calbuzz did me a great favor by putting me in
my place today.
fact, what they said is an honor. It is especially gratifying to get such a
knuckle-rap from bloggers who – in these times of great challenge – focus their
reporting on important public service topics, such as Jerry Brown’s eyebrows.
strong bit of evidence that the Calbuzzers are right about my not having done
enough reporting is that I have never been able to confirm the factual claims
that Calbuzz makes in their attack on me. My meager reporting for example
failed to turn up the fact that:
-the Whitman campaign bowed to
Calbuzz in deciding to become accessible to the press corps.
To the contrary, my own reporting
has been that the Whitman campaign, as a very deliberate strategy, courted the
criticism of the Calbuzzers (as well as other media and other candidates) that
she was ducking hard questions and debates. The goal of the Whitman campaign:
reduce expectations so when they decided to put her out in front of reporters
(at a time that, according to my reporting, was chosen by the Whitman campaign)
even a mush-mouthed, mediocre performance would make her look good.
And over the last week, that’s
exactly what happened.
So let me do some reporting in this
space and ask: Have you received any thank-you emails from the Whitman folks
yet, Calbuzzers? She really should buy you that dinner. You have been very
useful to her.
-that political reporting is about
what politicians say, and that those words are "important signifiers of how
I’d never thought of that, and you
might have thought I would have, during my short time covering politics,
including three presidential campaigns and the career of the current governor.
Now I admit that I recorded and transcribed what candidates said. But – and
maybe this is just my "world-weary" condescension talking – what the candidates
said often had little or nothing to do with what they would do in office. (I
remember watching candidate George W. Bush promise a humble foreign policy, and
sat through dozens of Schwarzenegger speeches during which he described himself
as a conservative who wouldn’t raise taxes). In my very limited experience, the
candidates’ words, in this era, are usually a little more than a mirror of
whatever tests well in polling and focus groups.
I always thought political
reporting consisted of telling people not what politicians were saying but what
they actually had done in their lives and careers, and what they were planning
to do in office. The words of candidates often were designed to obscure those
facts. The best political reporting I know of (I did very little of this myself
– it requires reporting after all — but I tried) used politicians’ words only
to show the chasm between those words and reality.
That’s why it’s so great that
Calbuzz has wised me up. As they explain, the job of a political reporter "is
to present those words and arguments to voters so they can make the decision."
Sort of like a press agent. This is a revelation! I must confess that I prefer
Calbuzz’s philosophy. For one thing, it requires a lot less reporting.
-ad hominem attacks as real
reporting. "Put aside your oh-so-world-weary condescension to those voters, get
up off your ass and do some actual reporting instead of just sucking on your
thumb all the time," Calbuzz says.
This was my favorite part of the
whole piece: being condescended to about my condescension and world-weariness
and reporting by world-weary journalists in a completely unreported blog item!
I realize the definition of reporting has been defined down in our times
(Reporting is now basically a synonym for "excessive journalistic
self-regard"). And I suppose I deserved a brushback pitch after that line about
"laxatives" at the end of the piece ("aging," however, was not ad hominem – if
I had wanted to attack, I would have said something like "Viagra-gobbling").
But wasn’t this a bit much, guys?
I plead guilty to dashing off some
of my Fox & Hounds posts because of work I’ve been doing on magazine pieces
and a book. Some of that work might be called reporting. If you don’t believe
that, you might do some reporting of your own and check out my new book first.
As it happens, it’s available for pre-order here.
But I’ll understand if you’re too
busy listening to Meg Whitman talk about focus. You’ve convinced me that the
future of the state hangs on her every word.