If the country is focused on one thing this election year, it is how much I hate my job. Well, not my job -- I love my job. But other people who get paid real money to write about the most important thing happening on Earth? They hate it. "If there is one narrative to anchor what often feels like a plotless 2012 campaign, it is media disillusionment," Politico's Dylan Byers writes Monday, in what he estimates to be the seventh article about how this is the worst political campaign of all time because it makes reporters so sad.
Here are the reasons it is bad:
- Not enough interviews with Obama and Romney.
- Too much focus on gaffes and attacks instead of policy.
- Too many tweets.
- "Until the candidates restore joy, it’s impossible for us to be joyful," NBC News' Chuck Todd told Politico.
"People are feeling grateful that it’s almost over," Politico's Maggie Haberman told her colleague. Political reporters long for "2008-level excitement," Byers writes. "The treadmill existence of having to file articles around the clock, tweet nonevents as they happen and listen to the same canned speeches and campaign conference calls day after day, waiting for something, anything, to bust up the script so that you can pretend there’s news here; this can be the definition of joylessness," The New York Times' Mark Leibovich wrote this weekend. "The Ghost of the Last Campaign looms heavy over this one like a dearly departed sibling." 2012 is an election about nothing, a letdown from the glorious campaigns of yore.
But it's really hard to find evidence to back up those memories in LexisNexis. Sarah Palin wasn't fun to write about because she had so many big policy ideas. She was fun to write about because she didn't know things, and betrayed this lack of knowledge in funny ways. Palin was 70/30 mixture of gaffe and attack. Campaigns were stupid before 2008, too. John Kerry windsurfing, "it's the economy stupid," George H.W. Bush's "wimp factor," "the Seinfeld election" (an election about nothing) -- all of these things happened before Mitt Romney got scared of making gaffes. In 1988, GQ chronicled how campaign reporters were sad they had to write so much they couldn't spend the entire day wasted anymore.
"The fact is, we are under-covering the economy," Chuck Todd told Laura Ingraham in August. The economy is what's causing so much reporterly pain. The Internet has forced journalists to feel the pressure of increased worker productivity demands that most of the rest of the American workforce has felt for decades. The reason reporters now write and tweet so much is your fear of irrelevancy, because you know at least one of your interns would be willing to stab you in the eye to take your job at one-third of your salary.