Journalists have a reputation for laziness.
And the journalists covering the current American presidential election appear to conform to type. Perhaps it’s understandable – this campaign, with no incumbent president or vice-president running will be the longest ever. Journalists have deadlines to meet and they have to write something – just to get some words in print.
So what to do?
Easy. Revert back to an old narrative and fit whatever happens to be going on that day into the pro-forma article that demonstrates that, for example, Hillary Clinton is power-hungry and driven, Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper or that Fred Thompson is lazy. The beauty of this method is that because everyone’s heard it all before, the current article doesn’t even have to be accurate – it just sounds so familiar anyway.
The reason it sounds familiar is because there is undoubtedly some truth in the charge. But a narrative of this type, once acquired, is remarkably hard to dislodge – imagine the caption for a photo of Fred Thompson taking a ride in a golf cart compared with the caption for an identical photo of Mitt Romney.
Energy (or the lack of it) is an issue in most campaigns (Is he too old? Is she up to the job?) – and it’s probably part of the reason why Fred Thompson’s campaign is in the toilet (or is soon to be).
But the bigger issue may well be the lack of mental energy displayed by the press – their job is not simply to reinforce our preconceptions. If they can challenge those, they might also succeed in challenging the candidates more as well.