In two days, the newspaper of record has published opinions that take issue with the idea of media as uncritical, parroting amplifiers of official pronouncements, right or wrong, ahead of Thursday's presidential debates.

The first one came yesterday, in the form of an op-ed piece from former New York Times political reporter — and "major league asshole," according to Dick Cheney — Adam Clymer. He writes:

The press, in recent years, has spilt a lot more ink over debate style than substance, with dutiful fact-checking relegated to inside pages, and descriptions of candidates' manners and costumes — and, above all, strategy — accompanying the front-page accounts of what was actually said.

It was not always that way. ...

Sometime in the 1980s, political coverage began to confuse itself with drama criticism. The word "performance" started showing up frequently in debate analyses, and reporters started citing playwright Samuel Beckett in their front-page articles.

Not too surprising, considering out Britney Spears/Paris Hilton-obsessed media.

Times columnist Paul Krugman does one better, asking perhaps not so rhetorically:

During the debate, Mr. Bush will try to cover for this dismal record with swagger, and with attacks on his opponent. Will the press play Karl Rove's game by, as Mr. Clymer puts it, confusing political coverage with drama criticism, or will it do its job and check the candidates' facts?

There's only one acceptable answer.


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