Why campaign coverage sucks
But the biggest advantage of horse-race journalism is that it permits reporters and pundits to "play up their detachment." Focusing on the race advertises the political innocence of the press because "who's gonna win?" is not an ideological question. By asking it you reaffirm that yours is not an ideological profession.
I have the strong impression that the rest of what that Salon article says about political media is correct, but that's based more on opinions I find reliable or just believable rather than firsthand experience (that is, I very rarely watch any kind of news talk show or whatever, and yet I feel free to criticize their hosts and complain about horse-race coverage of campaigns.) But that part jumped out at me because it's something I experience. I've mentioned I go to Drinking Liberally? Last week, the Young Democrats of Vermont or something had their meeting just before Drinking Liberally, so there were a lot of new faces. Some woman who works for the state Democratic Party asked me who I support in the presidential primaries. I demurred at first because, of course, supposed to be neutral, but when she pressed I gave my answer. I turned the question around on her, and she had to say the same thing because of her job.
Oddly enough, considering how I follow politics, I've never liked talking about the subject much. I talk about it more than I did, say, four years ago, but still less than I talk about my other interests with people who share them. It's partly because I tend to be non-confrontational, and I think in a way it's actually caused by the fact that I follow politics: you can't get exact quotes or statistics or double-check what you have a vague impression is correct if you aren't at a computer.
I've occasionally read left-wingers praising the European press which they see as more openly and honestly ideological by comparison to America's mainstream media, with its infotainment and its idolization of balance to the point of absurdity. I'm not sure if the European model is exactly what I'd want — I'm also not sure how accurate is my impression of it — but really, an ideology of detachment to the extreme that the American media takes it makes extremely little sense for any profession, and especially for one so closely connected to politics.