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What’s the Point of “Journalism” Like This?

- December 7, 2007

The Washington Post runs a daily presidential campaign feature titled “The Trail.” Today’s edition includes three separate items — one on support for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy from three major groups, another on the cancellation of a key Senate vote that would have forced some candidates to alter their schedules, and the third … the third … about … well, it’s hard to say. Here it is, in toto (though, last time I checked, Toto was back in Kansas, not in Iowa):

bq. AMES, Iowa — Chancey and Bud Montang are a couple without a candidate.

bq. Bud, a financial analyst, and Chancey, who worked in advertising before she quit several years ago to home-school their four children, had beensome of the leading backers in Ames of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who recently dropped out of the race after struggling to raise money and to move in the polls.

bq. When the agreed to watch Mitt Romney’s faith speech with a reporter Thursday morning, both said before it started that they were unlikely to back the former Massachusetts governor — not because of his Mormonism but because of their concerns about his previous support of abortion rights. He not only failed to win over either of them with his speech, but he didn’t seem to move them any closer to his side.

bq. The Montangs, who are heavily involved in their Catholic church, kept pointing to what they saw as a contradiction in Romney’s speech; in their minds, he was saying that his faith is important but that it will not affect his decisions.

bq. “If his faith is truly in the fiber of his being, every decision he makes is affected by it,” Bud Montang said. “You can’t say your faith isn’t going to affect your decisions. It is who you are completely.” As Romney said he would not “jettison” his religion, but not take guidance from Mormon leaders, Chancey Montang grew frustrated.

bq. “You can’t have it separate and together,” she said. “It’s one or the other.”

bq. –Perry Bacon Jr.

Just exactly what is newsworthy here? That two people who weren’t attracted to a candidate before he gave a speech still weren’t attracted to him afterwards? Stop the presses! That the Montangs are such important people that we need to know what they thought of Romney’s speech? With all due respect to the Montangs, who may be very nice folks, they don’t seem more important than, say, the average Iowan. Oh! Maybe that’s the point — they’re supposed to be, in effect, an N=2 microcosm of Iowa. But the very fact that they were supporters of Sam Brownback establishes that they aren’t representative of much of anything.

This is lazy “human-interest” journalism at its worst, and it’s hard to fathom why the Post would run an item like this one. Maybe tomorrow they’ll carry an equally enlightening feature about how beautiful Dennis Kucinich’s wife is — but, no, that was yesterday!