Why is the media so fascinated with politicians' gaffes?

Almost the exact same analysis can be applied to any of Romney’s “gaffes.” Take the time he said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” The line emerged in a discussion of the type of health-care market Romney would like to see, one in which consumers “choose among different policies offered from companies across the nation.” He was making two serious policy points: One, that insurance should be based on individuals rather than on employers, and two, that it should be sold across state lines. The media didn’t cover either point. Even if Romney hadn’t misspoken, it’s doubtful either point would have received wide notice.

Instead, Romney’s poor phrasing made headlines across the nation. Why? Again, few people (and fewer journalists) truly think Romney takes pleasure in firing people, much less that he was announcing a “fire everybody!” economic policy. The media simply anticipated that Romney’s political opponents would use the remark against him…

We also reduce the amount of useful information politicians offer to the public, making our jobs harder in the long term. What Obama no doubt learned from his “gaffe” news conference is that he shouldn’t do many news conferences. The downside risk of a poorly phrased, extemporaneous comment vastly outweighs the likelihood that whatever serious message he seeks to convey will make it through the media’s filter. What Romney learned from Obama’s news conference is that, if he’s lucky enough to become president, he shouldn’t do many news conferences, either. The sad part is, both politicians probably learned the right lesson — at least for their purposes.

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