Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Where Has Good Reporting Gone?

Okay, so first off, this is not about politics, but rather about media. However, I need to use a political example to get the ball rolling. So, for those of you sick of this stuff, I’ll be quick.


Throughout the run up to the election I had lots of conversations/arguments with lots of folks about things like polls. My argument tended to be something along the lines of, “sure, that poll is probably wrong in that way, but it’s also probably wrong in 200 other ways and until you show me the data I don’t believe any of it.” (Again, not those exact words, but close.)

I had the same arguments around people talking about Palin supporters, especially those who lectured New Yorkers that they didn’t understand. Now I happen to agree that most New Yorkers have no sense of what it’s like to live somewhere else and do suffer from a bit of NASCAR blindness as Alan likes to call it, however, I also think most of what I read or heard about Palin supporters from those same people was equally reductionist but in a different direction.


What I’ve come to realize is that what I was hungering for was journalism/reporting. Not just calling up experts and getting their opinions on things, but actually going out and talking to real folks in real places or digging in some real research and sharing some hard numbers. The best article I read over the last few months was a New Yorker piece by George Packer about his time in Ohio speaking to undecided voters.

Unfortunately this kind of reporting comes few and far-between, with journalists instead opting to the regulars. In thinking about it the other day, I started to feel like maybe this was a reaction to bloggers. Clearly blogs play a big role in the mind of journalists (even though they likely play a smaller role in the life of most Americans). Blogs (including this one) are almost all conjecture. Few bloggers conduct original interviews, research or reporting. Mostly they just write about things they find interesting. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but I personally often find myself wanting more (which I think is probably part of why FiveThirtyEight was so popular).

So I guess my question is two-fold: A) Am I just missing something, or does it really seem like there’s less good reporting/research coming out of the media these days? B) If not, why? Is it just because that stuff is more expensive than just calling an expert?

At the end of the day, I still very much appreciate what’s out there and think there are some outlets doing a fine job delivering interesting stories with in-depth reporting frequently (the New Yorker comes to mind first). But what’s up with the rest? How did this happen?

Oh, and this is all conjecture without any research or data to back it up. So (like you should with everything else you read) take it with a grain of salt.

November 6, 2008