I have a new column at CJR challenging claims that gaffes affect election outcomes and therefore deserve saturation coverage. Here's how it begins:
Since Friday, the national political conversation has been dominated by a debate over the importance of President Obama’s statement, at a White House press conference, that “The private sector is doing fine.”
Unfortunately, most of the media discussion has focused on strategy rather than policy. At The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza led off a Sunday column with the assertion that “gaffes matter” in shaping election outcomes. Two days earlier, his Post colleague Karen Tumulty described the president’s remark as a “gift” Obama had “handed to Republicans”...
These claims are representative of the way journalists routinely promote the importance of these sorts of pseudo-controversies, even though there is little convincing evidence that gaffes affect presidential election outcomes. The problem is particularly acute during the summer doldrums between the end of the primary campaigns and the party conventions. As we’ve seen, a bored press corps with space to fill can easily lose perspective.
Read the whole thing for more.