What is Left is the Cliffs Notes of News
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Time for a quick quiz. Question #1: when Barack Obama campaigned in Altoona, Pa., a few weeks ago, what was his bowling score? And question #2: name one thing â€” anything â€” about Joe Bidenâ€™s healthcare plan.
Elizabeth Edwards makes the point today that, thanks to media coverage, we can all immediately answer the first, and struggle to answer the second.
For the last month, news media attention was focused on Pennsylvania and its Democratic primary. Given the gargantuan effort, what did we learn?
Well, the rancor of the campaign was covered. The amount of money spent was covered. But in Pennsylvania, as in the rest of the country this political season, the information about the candidatesâ€™ priorities, policies and principles â€” information that voters will need to choose the next president â€” too often did not make the cut. After having spent more than a year on the campaign trail with my husband, John Edwards, Iâ€™m not surprised.
Why? Hereâ€™s my guess: The vigorous press that was deemed an essential part of democracy at our countryâ€™s inception is now consigned to smaller venues, to the Internet and, in the mainstream media, to occasional articles. I am not suggesting that every journalist for a mainstream media outlet is neglecting his or her duties to the public. And I know that serious newspapers and magazines run analytical articles, and public television broadcasts longer, more probing segments.
But I am saying that every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.