Horse-race coverage: the only way to improve it is for journalists to work on campaigns.
Why Journalists Should Be Forced to Work on Campaigns
The New Science Of Winning Campaigns
Sept. 18 2012 4:21 PM

Why Journalists Should Be Forced to Work on Campaigns

Barack Obama talks with supporters during a visit to a campaign field office in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on September 9, 2012.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages

Two weeks ago I wrote an essay in The New York Times arguing that horse-race coverage is bad because journalists don't understand how campaigns work.

Over the last decade, almost entirely out of view, campaigns have modernized their techniques in such a way that nearly every member of the political press now lacks the specialized expertise to interpret what’s going on. Campaign professionals have developed a new conceptual framework for understanding what moves votes. It’s as if restaurant critics remained oblivious to a generation’s worth of new chefs’ tools and techniques and persisted in describing every dish that came out of the kitchen as either “grilled” or “broiled.”

Today I proffered a solution: journalists should work on campaigns.

We need working reporters who have spent time inside a field office and have the comfort with the street-level politics that an engaged activist would develop after a few months of regular volunteer shifts on a modern campaign.

Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab about the new science of political campaigns.

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