. . . Thursday September 30, 2004

You Been Spunk’d

Over at PressThink, Jay Rosen tells the story of a major political reporter who is refusing to allow himself to be spun by the spinners during spin hour in the spin room after the debate.

In fact, Adam Nagourney of the NY Times will not even be in Florida for the debate. Instead, he’s going to watch it on television from his D.C office. Nagourney explains that he can’t get far enough away from the spin cycle: “‘I avoid Spin Alley at all costs. I think it’s degrading for reporters and degrading for political operatives.” Rosen adds: “Degrading is exactly right. He might have added that it’s degrading to the listeners, and to voters, who are ultimately supposed to be spun.”

As a guy who spends much of his time watching politicians and political operatives on the tube, I must admit that I’ve become somewhat addicted to the degradation. If I can’t get it there, I’ll need to look for it somewhere else. I need. I need.

Nagourney is right to avoid the spin room. He’s also right to avoid the venue in Florida altogether. Just as was the case with the conventions, these debates (or the dueling press conferences which they’ve been reduced to) are made for television events. And the only thing that matters is how they play on television. Being in the venue means missing the story.

Of course, for voters, the spin doesn’t stop at the spin room door. Politics is one of the few sports where you need to wait around for a so-called expert to tell you who won the match. First you’ll hear from the television pundits and the spinners. Then radio talkshows and newspapers. So when will you decide who got the better of things?

Well, here’s an idea. If Adam Nagourney can cover the debate from Washington, maybe we can all form an opinion in the privacy of our own living rooms. Try this. Once the debate is over, turn off the television. Pause. Think. Decide who you think did a more effective job in the debate. Consider the best lines and the most important moments.

Then, if you must, turn the television back on and see how your opinion matches up with those of others. And don’t let yourself be too easily swayed. When it comes to picking a winner in politics, if you’ve got a vote, then you’re an expert.

Or, forget all that and just come check out my takes here at electablog. I’ll be degrading throughout the night.

Concentration is important!