Inside the Beltway

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Tale wagging

The press is an excitable bunch. They bay like hounds, or turn into a pack of curs should their prey appear weak or wounded. And if there is no jumping and biting involved, journalists often resort to chasing their tails and making meaningless yipping sounds.

The tail-chasing is particularly worrisome. It means the journalists have become bored.

This is a frequent occurrence when they are faced with a topic that does not present a ready conclusion. Whirling after their own derrieres, the news media will work themselves into crisis mode, producing coverage that is alarmist and shrill. Global warming, epidemics, celebrity deaths and political scandal have all warranted such treatment.

And now the press is also reporting the American health care system as a “crisis” situation.

Consider that a recent poll conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Zogby International finds that 84 percent of Americans — including 46 percent of Americans without health care insurance — are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the health care they currently receive.

The poll didn’t get much play in the press.

“The media need to stop acting like arsonists when it comes to their reporting on the U.S. health care system, starting a fire and then suggesting to put it out the government takeover of a fifth of our economy,” says Brent Bozell, director of the Media Research Center.

“There is no health care crisis. The American people are overwhelmingly satisfied with the health care they currently receive. The media should report this instead of helping incite for the socialist solution — the government making our most vital life and death health decisions,” Mr. Bozell continues.

“The real crisis here is the crisis of confidence that the American people have in the media. The press need to stop creating calamities where there are none, and instead do what they are charged with doing — reporting the facts.”

Beat the Tweet

Twittering, Tweeting. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos does it. So does soon-to-be ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. A lot. The White House is Twitter friendly, along with lawmakers, policy wonks, astronauts and pundits. This form of social media — based on 140-character “micro-blogging” messages sent via the Internet — is now a common tool in the political realm.

On the positive side, Twitter has forced the long-winded to edit their bloviations. Canny strategists have used it to break news. And at the moment, Twitter is, well, buzz-worthy indeed.

Consider that according to news-monitoring service VMS, news organizations lavished attention on Twitter, affording it the equivalent of $48 million of free coverage over the past 30 days alone. Nearly 3 billion Tweets were made in that time period — 2.73 billion — and traffic is growing by about 14 percent a month. According to Comscore’s Media Matrix, which measures Web traffic, over 20 million visitors were prowling around the Twitter site in June.

But alas. Can the savvy politicians trust new media? Not yet, perhaps. Like certain movie stars, Mrs. Palin now has a spate of people pretending to be her, Tweeting away in her name for better or worse. But she is up for the fight. And brevity seems to suit her.

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About the Author


A graduate of Syracuse University, Jennifer Harper writes the daily Inside the Beltway column and provides additional coverage of breaking national news, plus long-term trends in politics, media issues, public opinion, popular culture, Hollywood foibles and “eureka” moments in health and science.

She has been a frequent broadcast commentator on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Voice of America, Citadel Broadcasting, ...

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