No More Preporting
Tonight is the first of the Democratic debates, and if you have tuned in to TV news, NPR, or social media, you’ll note that the air is thick with what I call “preporting.” That’s the blather that pretends to be real news – only it’s about things that have not yet actually happened.
I've spent the day hearing that this is what Sen. Warren will say tonight. And here’s how Sen. Klobuchar will respond. Tomorrow night, here’s what Vice President Biden or Mayor Pete will say.
I am deeply sympathetic to all those cable news channels that are faced with a 24-hour news cycle and the need to fill air time. And I know the challenge of writing or saying anything clever (or sometimes, even lucid) on deadline is real. So there's always a need to prepare for a live event like a public meeting or a debate.
I well recall a Post reporter who used to call me before every school board meeting. What did I think was going to happen? How was the vote going to turn out? Who would say what?
Which seemed like a thing any reporter would do. Until I realized that he pretty much stopped coming to the actual school board meetings. Yet his story would appear in the next day's edition. Finally I stopped making predictions and offered this advice: “Why don’t you come to the meeting? Write down what people say? Record the votes. You could call it . . . I don’t know . . . reporting.”
There's a difference between preparing and preporting. And in the desperate urge to preport on a debate - which is certainly a Bright Shiny Object - or to report on serious issues (the children in shelters at the border, anyone?), preporting is likely to win out every time.
But we in a time when the entire strategy of this Administration seems to be "Let's Change the Subject," we don't need to be complicit. We can look (even if it's on Page A5 or at the bottom of the news hour) for the coverage of stuff that's actually happened. And tomorrow, we can talk about what the candidates, you know, actually said.