Spin Cycle

08.19.12

Chris Cillzza: Why Campaigns Don't Need the Media

Are journalists capable of elevating the debate?

When I asked Chris Cillizza about the name-calling, deception and pettiness that has defined this presidential campaign, he didn’t hem and haw.

“The smallness of our politics is baked in at this point,” the Washington Post blogger, editor and author of The Gospel According to The Fix told me. “We talk about the idea of high-mindedness…and yet all of those conversations inevitably boil down to what you can fit in a 30-second ad, what you can tweet out, and that winds up driving the debate.”

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Kurtz and Cillizza talk Paul Ryan and the media's gaffe obsession.

Are journalists partially to blame? Cillizza notes that one of the most popular stories on the Post’s website is not about Paul Ryan’s legislative record but about his P90X workout.

As for the media’s fact-checking role, he says: “What’s hard is that people, particularly partisans, assume that there is a white and a black on everything, that the ‘truth,’ the ‘fact,’ is crystal clear--when in fact even with facts, there are gray areas…You’ve seen fact-checkers actually come under scrutiny.”

Perhaps the most striking thing that Cillizza said was in recalling what a strategist had once told him about getting a story out: “'For me a link is a link.' It doesn’t really matter that it’s Washingtonpost.com, Newsweek/Daily Beast, they can send it to Drudge, and then we’ll have to follow up on the story of the story.” In other words, campaigns don’t really need the mainstream media any more in today's digital world, and we’re all too easy to manipulate.