So, if the White House press corps isn't especially important, you know what's infinitely less important? That's right -- who sits in which seat during the White House press briefing and press conferences. I really can't think of anything of less consequence. Really. If I was pressed, I'm sure I could compose an item on Chelsea Clinton's wedding, or on the president's outing with his daughter to a WNBA game, and find some real politics in either of them. But who sits where in the White House briefing room? Gotta be the bottom of the barrel, absolutely without any actual "Politics and Government" content whatsoever, no matter how broadly defined. So please explain to me why the "Politics and Government Blog" of the New York Times posted a long item about it last night? When there's, you know, real news out there that's not being reported?
Actually, check that; I'll explain it. Among the many real biases of the press (as opposed to the ideological and partisan fantasies of both sides) is a bias in favor of overestimating the importance of press coverage. Not that the press is unimportant, of course...but it isn't as important as one would think from reading the newspapers and watching the news on TV.
Want another example? Look at Frank Rich's column yesterday:
By June 1971, the Tet offensive and Walter Cronkite’s famous on-air editorial were more than three years in the past. The David Halberstam article that inspired “The Best and the Brightest” had already appeared in Harper’s. Lt. William Calley had been found guilty in the My Lai massacre exposed by Seymour Hersh in 1969. Just weeks before the Pentagon Papers surfaced, the Vietnam veteran John Kerry electrified the country by asking a Senate committee, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” Most Americans had long been telling pollsters the war was a mistake. By the time the Pentagon Papers surfaced, a plurality also disapproved of how Vietnam was handled by Nixon, who had arrived in office promising to end the war.Cronkite...Halberstam...Hersh...great reporters all, but they aren't the main story; the story was that the war was actually going badly, and the story was that as a result, first the left and then the mainstream foreign policy establishment had turned against the war.
Of course, this is understandable. Rich says that he was inspired by Vietnam to become a journalist. Presumably, those were inspired by Vietnam to enter into careers in government or political activism interpreted those events differently, with different sets of heroes. But then again the people who wind up writing the newspaper stories and columns tend to be the ones who saw Cronkite, Halberstam, and Hersh as the central players of the Vietnam story.
All of which isn't going to change, I don't suppose. Just consider it a warning of a real, clear, press bias, one to keep in mind when you're reading the stories that reporters tell.