Howard Dean On Why Your Stupid Media Covers Theoretical "Fights" All the Time

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 8 2010 12:00 PM

Howard Dean On Why Your Stupid Media Covers Theoretical "Fights" All the Time

One of the best books of the year is Ari Berman's Herding Donkeys , his insider, happily biased history of Howard Dean's tenure running the DNC. I keep returning to this quote in the book from Dean, in which he explained why, in the aggregate, he was happy that the media wrote so many stories about the frothy "fight" between him and Democrats over Rahm Emanuel over fundraising and the "fifty state strategy."

Political writers will rarely write about substance. But they like to write about combat, so every time they did a column, which was once every two weeks, first of all it would end up on the front page, because there wasn't that much going on, and secondly, in order to write about what the fact was about, they had to explain what the fifty-state strategy was, usually somewhere in the first four paragraphs. So on the front page of almost every major paper in the country, every two weeks, was something about the fifty-state strategy.

Advertisement

Of course, Dean didn't plant any stories like this, and the criticism of Democratic strategy at the time was one way -- there were few if any Dean homers bashing James Carville or Rahm Emanuel off or on the record. But keep this in mind when you see a progressive pundit or PAC "mulling" support for an Obama primary challenge, or a Tea Party spokesman/group "slamming" some Republican. They are throwing bait. Reporters dive for it like goldfish.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Mad About Modi


Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.


Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 6:59 PM The Democrats’ War at Home Can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.