Building a Better Press Corps

BUILDING A BETTER PRESS CORPS….How do we get a better press corps? Brad DeLong and Ezra Klein say the answer is to insist that reporters have more expertise in the subjects they cover. Today, Brad pushes this theme further by highlighting the following from one of his commenters:

I repeat my previous suggestion for the “baseball test.” A reporter should not be assigned to cover subject X unless he has as good an understanding of X as a baseball writer is expected to have of baseball.

Man, does this seem backward. If you asked me what was wrong with big-league political reporting in this country, I’d say its biggest problem is that is has too much in common with big league sports writing. Reporters like Adam Nagourney and John Harris don’t lack for expertise in politics, after all. They have trainloads of it. Their problem is precisely that they treat politics the way sportwriters treat baseball: as a game, in which both sides are equivalent, you’re not supposed to play favorites, you favor polls and statistics over substantive (but boring!) analysis, trivia is a source of endless fascination, and a clever bon mot is irresistable regardless of whether it’s actually fair or accurate.

I realize that arguing against reporters having more expertise is like arguing against apple pie, but really, lack of expertise just isn’t journalism’s biggest problem. It might be in the top ten, maybe even the top five, but it sure isn’t #1. Priorities, people.