Noise vs. knowledge: America's longest presidential campaign

In our country, we conceal in full view. The important news is mostly on the web and in at least some of the papers, rather than passed as handwritten notes between Henry Kissinger and Goldman Sachs. However the best newspapers often mix a few sprinkles of the good stuff in a vast tub of swill. That’s often because the reporters and editors aren’t well trained to carry out a smart sorting process, but it’s also because the business model of the legacy media requires a lot of infotainment in the mix to keep a mass audience. Veep buzz however intellectually trivial and politically pointless sells, and what sells, runs.

So the media battle space fills up with Veep buzz and poll chat. There’s a constant tug toward speculation as opposed to analysis: who will win in November versus what is going on in the country. Large numbers of people get sidelined by the flash and the noise; they immerse themselves in the media coverage of politics without ever getting closer to an understanding of how power really works in America. Minds filled with infotainment, they not only lack much of the basic information that would allow them to get out of the spectator seats and down onto the field of play; they also lack — because no one ever teaches it — the ability to discriminate between trivia and real news…

The legacy media are going to have a tough job shifting from noisy political pseudo-drama (much of which has more in common with professional wrestling than real politics) to the kind of substance based reporting that people actually need. Covering the revolutions in higher ed, medicine, state and municipal governance (including things like the pension crisis) is much more important than having talking heads gas about potential Veep picks or speculate about debate strategies and poll trends. But it’s hard for legacy organizations with their heavy fixed costs, pension overhangs and creaking business models to pull away from campaign infotainment and invest in real news.