I wasn’t around to heap scorn on Matt Bai’s claim about the superior insights of political journalists, but just to flog that dead horse, here is an example of the relationship between journalism and academic work at its best. In preparing a terrific editorial about the paradoxical nature of California’s decision rules (simple-majority rule for constitutional change, supermajority rule to pass a budget), Nicholas Goldberg, the deputy editor of the LA Times editorial page, read scholarly work and talked to political theorists, political scientists, and law professors who write about supermajority rule from a variety of different perspectives. (Trust me.)
As a first-rate journalist, Goldberg has an impressive ability to digest, reflect upon, and present complicated arguments very quickly. Of course, though, his capacity to do this important work for his readers depends upon academics committing the time and resources to long-term and large-scale research projects — and going to dinner with three Iowans, unless they’re academics, won’t help him.