What’s the word for a worthy politician – big heart, batting on big principles – who’s unlikely to win an election?
Two words: Not newsworthy.
Or, Bernie Sanders?
Yes. But no longer.
That said, painful though it is to acknowledge this, old hacks like me know that goodwill does not a good story make.
And mostly, it’s won’t make the paper (or the TV news bulletin). Column inches and TV news time is too precious to be squandered on no-hopers, wish-they-weres.
Mr Sanders is making the news. The Washington Post on Thursday wrote as follows: “A swelling number of liberal activists, however, see Sanders as the answer. The boisterous crowds that have greeted his road show in the two weeks since he launched his campaign have surprised even his longtime advisers.
“With his Brooklyn-accented barbs about what he believes is the alarming power of corporate America, Sanders sees a path to defeating Clinton. While Clinton is flanked by aides and Secret Service agents at controlled events, Sanders revels in rowdy town hall meetings and wanders through crowds wearing a rumpled suit and with unruly white hair.”
It was all very different soon afteer the self-described socialist kicked off his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. That was the time sections of the American media started discussing if it were ethical to pay such little heed to Mr Sanders. Over on Bloomberg View, Jonathan Bernstein analysed the issue with the pithy headline “What the Press Owes Bernie Sanders”. He quoted Ryan Cooper of The Week, and Dylan Byers of Politico complaining that it just wasn’t fair to provide less than comprehensive coverage.
Even with the best will in the world (and personally, I wish Mr Sanders stood a chance of getting the nomination), one had to wonder what kind of journalism they were doing. Campaign journalism? Activism? Reformism?
All of these are fine but they’re best done in a journalist’s spare time.
That said, Mr Bernstein’s words now seem oddly prescient. He wrote: “As a protest candidate, Sanders has solid credentials for being taken seriously”.
True. Now he is, but not because of his credentials – he’s getting the crowds.