That's what reporters do. They want quick answers. They want the thumbnail understanding. They're like boxers -- I keep thinking of Apollo Creed in Rocky being coached to "stick and move, stick and move" -- that's reporting. Give it a zing. It's black, or white. Give a nod to complexity, but then dismiss it by not going there.
Case in point: Today's Washington Post article on -- get ready -- "the Angry Left." (Yes, that is a capitalized phrase.)
SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.
Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.
What follows is what seems like an attempt at humorous caricature, painting a picture of a madwoman smoking a cig while trying to think up the most horrible awful thing to blog about. I don't know Maryscott, but I know her writing, and some of it is very powerful. Maybe she's really like this.
But doesn't the reporter -- David Finkel, fans -- really have any interest in exploring why?
The man completely misses the story here. He gets off on a shallow, mocking portrait of a day in the life of a blogger, and doesn't see -- or simply ignores -- that he's seeing a citizen trying to deal with today's politics, that blogging is citizen publishing, that millions of people are blogging.
"But that's not his assignment," you say?
Therein lies the problem. Because what we have here is a dismissive article that uses exaggeration and selective observation (like focusing on the most inane comments made in discussion threads, while ignoring anything in depth) to undercut the credibility of a person who's been made the sacrificial goat of the day to slay the insurgent communications medium -- blogging -- while selling soap (or, on the web page I'm looking at now, HP brand servers and equity loans).
Not convinced? Then consider how the article moves straight from the cartoonish portrayal of Maryscott's "Angry Left" rage to this: