How Washington journalism is like the gossip sheets

Stephen Baker

Jeff Jarvis notes the similarities between Washington journalism and the celebrity rags. This is true because both industries, Celebrity Inc. and politics, produce only one product: information. Access means everything when you're covering those industries. So, as Jarvis notes, the people controlling the access wield the power to spin.

That's why it's nice to cover industries that produce something other than a message. U.S. Steel can spin all it likes. But the spin is empty noise when their tonnage falls and earnings drop. Politics, of course, has numbers too. But good spinners can figure out how to pin the bad ones on someone else.

Washington journalism would be a whole lot more useful if reporters relegated the spinners to a small corner and concentrated instead on describing the exercise of power--how the place works. In other words, focus less on what might or might not happen tomorrow; instead, study the effects of policies put into place yesterday. This would be covering not what politicians say, but what they do.

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