Paul Waldman is a writer for The American Prospect and I quite like him even if I disagree from time to time. And this morning, he wrote a cheeky little article, Seven Reasons You Will Click on This Article about 2016. Basically, it is an apologia for writing about elections that are far in the future. What I find interesting about it is that I don’t think of Waldman as particularly the kind of journalist who writes about this kind of stuff all that much. The article is probably just an indication that Waldman is at least a bit on an iconoclast. Lots of people complain about the “coverage” of the 2016 election, but few provide a full-throated defense of it.
That dynamic may explain why his defense of the practice is so lame. The seven reasons are: (1) it’s easy; (2) it’s easy; (3) it’s easy; (4) it’s easy; (5) it’s easy; (6) it’s easy; and (7) elections matter but maybe not three years out. He wrote, “I’ve been doing this blogging/column-writing thing for about a decade, and let me tell you, my job gets a lot easier once a presidential campaign gets rolling.” Never a truer statement was made. Just with my blogging here, it is amazing how much easier it was last year at this time. Every day was a smorgasbord—even Sunday. There is much less happening this year. And now that Congress is in recess, I can’t even write articles about how Congress isn’t getting anything done!
But I think that Waldman is wrong to focus on reporters in his apologia. The truth is that readers really like the election coverage. It is kind of hard to compare readership on this site because it has increased so much over the last year. But nonetheless, readership went way up in the two months up through the election. (It never went back down, but that has to do with the increasing trend.) Now I understand, this too is about the writer. All writers want to please their readers. But it is wrong to think that writers would just do what comes easy despite a lack of interest from readers.
In fact, people often ask me why I write so much about politics. And the truth is that in the early years, I thought that I was being lazy when I wrote about politics. I’ve always found politics a lot easier than science or literature or even film. But politics has gotten the most readership. And even more, my writing about political media figures has gotten the most of all. Nothing seems to please my readers so much as ragging on Josh Barro or Ezra Klein. (When I say nice things about them—which is most of the time—no one really cares.)
On the other hand, I do not write the kind of articles that Waldman is talking about. While it is true that I think they are stupid, that isn’t the reason. I just don’t think I have anything to say about what Hillary Clinton should do to secure the nomination in 2016. Anyway, when it comes to elections, I’m more of a “fundamentals” kind of guy. For example, I wrote, The Next Three Election Cycles. There I was speculating all the way through 2018. But I didn’t talk about who the people involved might be. For one thing, I really don’t know. But far more important, I don’t care because I don’t think it matters.
When it comes to this stuff, I really think we ought to depend upon the free market. If people want to read articles about how Hillary Clinton needs a “message,” then I think people should write those articles. When it comes to actual news reporting, we should expect something more. Important stories should be covered just because they are important, even if they are not popular. Of course, that sort of stuff too has been going away. But among the opinion ranters, what does it matter?