Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Its time to jettison Twitter as political reporting tool

Today marks the first day of session for the 83rd Texas Legislature. Historically it's a day for speeches, some unintentional humor, and the election of the Speaker of the House, Senate President Pro Tempre etc.  In short, pomp, circumstance and little else.  This is a day tailor made for the recap blog, for hitting the highlights, for cutting out the mundane,  the boilerplate and  the parliamentary and focusing on what, if any, policy meat could be found.

For example:  The story of the day should have been Rick Perry talking about what are sure to be his legislative priorities. As expected, Perry addressed the fetal pain bill, he talked about school vouchers, and he discussed a laundry list of other issues ranging from water and transportation needs to fiscal restraint and tax relief.  In short, it was exactly the speech that you expected him to give, and one much fuller in policy than Texas lockstep political media has led you to believe he is offering. As a matter of fact, if you listen to the media, all Perry offered was abortion, drug testing for medicaid recipients and tax relief. Sadly there was more attention paid to a sweater vest  and some poor staffer who passed out during the speech  than their was policy.

As predicted, it was the race for Speaker of the House that dominated the media Twitter feeds for most of the morning. (When they weren't patting themselves on the back or continuing to be fascinated by iApple that is.) Once Straus was re-elected by acclimation the tweets of the media then went into policy wonk mode for his speech. It's interesting that Perry, who is very conservative and who the media doesn't like, gets the lightweight treatment while Straus, who's more moderate and well-liked by the media, gets his speech taken seriously.

And this is the problem with today's Texas lockstep political media.  There's not one dissenting voice out there who views things other than through hip, trendy eye-wear from the perspective of a 6th street bar.  It's too monochrome, too one-note, political reporting in Texas is more fast food than haute cuisine, it's flip-flops rather than designer shoes.  It's the easy, rim-shot, laugh in place of thoughtful commentary.

I get that poking fun at Rick Perry is amusing, and can be great entertainment, but I also understand that Perry's office is going to release the full text of his speech online and I can now go to that and read the thing for myself rather than have some folks who don't like him all that much tell me what they want it to say, or focus on what they think is important.

We're to the point, in Texas, that our political media is quickly running out of ways to keep our attention.  There are so many ways for the politicians to reach out to us directly that we really don't need to 5-30 year veteran reporter with their J-school sensibilities telling us what to think on the larger issues.  That's not to say they don't, occasionally, still serve a purpose.  On election day, for instance, they offer an invaluable service. in many ways their summaries of committee meetings can be of benefit, unless the minutes are available for public consumption, then those are out as well.

Most importantly however is that we stop paying attention to them on Twitter because, if we don't, we're going to end up thinking the Texas water shortage was solved by a staffer who collapsed while wearing a aTm sweater vest that was given to Laticia Van De Putte.

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