Eric Alterman from The Daily Beast has an interesting analysis of President Obama’s recent press conference. His take on the coverage of the event was that the press are troubled by Obama’s long-term thinking, which doesn’t mesh well with their short-term news cycles.
CNN wants emotions, theatrics, the stamping of feet, mano-a-mano anger, and outrage contests. This is a presidency defined by cable news food-fights and Maureen Dowd-style armchair psychoanalysis. Obama wants to “know what he’s talking about,” pick the best policy to achieve it, and explain it as calmly as he can to his country.
I’m curious to see how the contest turns out. Will Obama give in to the pressures of the press to deliver a sound-bite or some kind of emotional outburst that will keep the pundits busy for weeks? Or, will he continue on his tack of cool-headed, clear explanations that deal more with long-term planning than instant gratification?
Whether or not you agree with his budget requests, all outward appearances are that he and his advisers are thinking carefully about what steps to take that will have long-term beneficial effects. This doesn’t necessarily help the press out, who want a story with a whiz-bang headline right now.
PRESIDENT OBAMA THINKS ABOUT BUDGET
OBAMA PLANS FOR FUTURE
CRYSTAL BALL SALES PLUMMET WITH OBAMA IN OFFICE
(heh. That last one is for The Onion)
I am interested in how this will turn out, you see, because I think it has certain parallels to science and science reporting. Science has trouble getting media attention because it is a long-term endeavor. The whiz-bang headline of today might be wrong tomorrow. Journalists and editors know that papers need to sell, and sensational news is the way to get peoples’ attention and sell pages. But, constant contradiction will reduce the draw and foster mistrust.
“Don’t scientists know anything?”
Can media learn how report on ideas that might have future effects without resorting to conflict? Will they learn from Obama how to explain complicated concepts to the public? If a change in reporting news from out of Washington occurs, will science reporting benefit as well?