Hop off the bus, Gus
While I am as interested as anyone in whether Barack Ob-literates Hillary or Huck Romps Romney, I can’t see the point of concentrating more than 2,500 representatives of our resource-constrained news organizations on this one-night wonder of a set-piece story.
The number of journalists issued credentials this year is “almost twice the 1,400 that were authorized in 2004,” reports the New York Times. CNN alone has 50 folks in the state, not to mention scores of reinforcements in New York and Atlanta.
With some 250,000 of the 2.9 million Iowans expected to attend the caucuses, the ratio of news-gatherers to civilians would be 100 to one – or lower, given that the number of correspondents applying for credentials was continuing to climb on the eve of the event, according to spokesmen for both political parties.
The slim journalist-to-Hawkeye ratio compares with the national averages of one sworn peace officer for every 123.5 citizens and one Starbuck’s employee for every 1,750.8 under-caffeinated Americans.
With caucus coverage being handled quite amply by the national print and broadcast media, I think the wannabe Boys on the Bus who have invaded Iowa ought to head home as fast as they can to start digging up the unique stories of local consequence that best serve their communities and the commercial interests of the news outlets that employ them.
Newspapers and local broadcasters are under increasing competition from Google, Yahoo and other online aggregators, who are usurping their audiences and their revenues with commoditized content like, well, coverage of the Iowa primary.
To fight back, the struggling local media need to do as much as they can to differentiate their offerings from the Yahoogles of the world. This means investing in the down-home coverage that defines their unique and unimpeachable value to advertisers, readers and, most important, non-readers.
Now more than ever, the local media can’t afford to squander their shrinking resources on ego trips to Iowa to claim a “Staff Correspondent” wrote essentially the same story that came off the AP wire.
The days of me-too journalism are over.