Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama in China, rethought

The storyline in some of the American press was that Obama failed. Of course, that's wrong, and misunderstands the basics of US-China relations. Here are some of the pieces that lay out why that's wrong:

* Interview with Howard French (former NYT Shanghai bureau) at CJR, part 1 and part 2.

* A series of posts by James Fallows.

Part of the problem is that the American media is obsessed with the horse race of everything, not just of a campaign. (Did Obama succeed? Or did he fail?!). And the other significant part of the problem is that most of the reporters writing the stories were with the White House press corps -- not the people based in Beijing (the NYT -- with its extensive foreign bureaus -- can and does do better on this generally than most others). Even if you're a White House press corps member genuinely trying really hard to understand the story, you still can't. It's an impossible job.

Now, here comes the Get Rid of the White House Press Corps argument. I mean, why are we having people try to cover everything the president does when that means covering a huge range of issues? I think the argument is basically right, though of course it's a bit more complicated.

Still, even if you do that, and have your Beijing person (if you have one) or State Department person cover the trip, half of the problem still remains. And that's the editorial pressure to cover it as a horse race, still. At least it'd be a more informed horse race article.


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