Cover the issues not the candidates

This is more than my rant last week about the media’s coverage of politics. It is actually a good suggestion from Christopher Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation, on how to make campaign coverage better. He’s refreshingly candid about how journalists cover campaigns, highlighting how reporters can almost feel like embeds in Iraq and lose perspective on the candidate that they cover. Also, I thought he was particularly honest about how it’s often easier to canvas fellow reporters’ opinions than it is to talk to voters in a place you don’t know.

His suggestion is that instead of covering candidates, cover issues. Cover the economy, education or foreign policy and compare the candidates and their changing positions. I’ve heard partisans say that Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton don’t have a position on ‘x’ issue and are just spouting rhetoric, when I know full well they do, it’s just not getting coverage in the breathless sprint that is this year’s compressed primary and caucus schedule. (For those not familiar with the American system, several states have moved their primaries and caucuses forward in order to have some influence in the nominating process. Some felt that they were left out by having primaries late in February or early in March when the nominations had all but been decided.)

It’s near 3:48 in this clip, but the whole piece is well worth listening to. On the Media has some of the best coverage of the US media there is.

I think there is still value in covering the campaigns because issues aren’t the only criteria that voters use in choosing a candidate, especially when it comes to picking the US president. But maybe this is one way to add some perspective to the horse race.