Friday, March 20, 2009

Mad Max and the Shrinking MSM

At the LA Times, James Rainey reinforces a major theme of the course. (If the "Mad Max" reference is obscure, click here.)

Political consultants aren't exactly rubbing their hands together and snickering. But as the hired guns look over a landscape of closing newspapers and laid-off investigative reporters, they sense an opening that leaves them both excited and queasy.One operative told me this week about planting attacks on opponents in partisan blogs, knowing the stories could bleed into mainstream news outlets, without leaving any incriminating fingerprints. Another described how he got green reporters to write stories (no campaign cash wasted!) on ads that the candidate had no intention of ever paying to put on TV. "They don't know any better," the consultant chuckled. "So we can get away with that one again."The political pros I interviewed talked about stories missed and questions not asked. But they were not entirely gleeful. These are consultants who care about more than just winning. (Hard to believe, but it's true.)They know better than anyone what happens when the gatekeepers go missing. "Imagine driving along [Interstate] 5. There used to be a couple highway patrolmen to keep people in line. Now they're gone and everyone knows it," said Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic consultant. "It can devolve into a Mad Max situation pretty quickly."

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