In today’s Salon, Jay Rosen provides a thorough and excellent analysis of "Why campaign coverage sucks." Factors include the herd mentality of otherwise-intelligent journalists and the need to fill pages and airtime while waiting for the voters to make the actual decisions.
He also makes a point about what journalists could — and should — be doing instead:
Journalists ought to be bringing new knowledge into the system, as Charlie Savage and the Boston Globe did in December. They gave the presidential candidates a detailed questionnaire on the limits of executive branch power and nine candidates responded. This is a major issue that any candidate for president should have to address, given the massive build-up of presidential power engineered by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. We desperately need to know what the contenders for the presidency intend to do — continue the build-up or roll it back? — but we won’t know unless the issue is injected into the campaign.
It used to be, for example, that TV coverage of political campaigns was poor because the time available was so limited — only a few minutes in each newscast. Now, with round-the-clock programming and an endless army of talking heads providing opinions, coverage is worse than ever, focusing on opinions about how the race can and "will" be won instead of what the candidates stand for.