Congress and the Media

| Mon Aug. 2, 2010 5:19 PM EDT

George Packer goes through a long list of reasons the Senate has become broken recently — CSPAN, 3-day workweeks, spiraling fundraising requirements, ideological hardening following the Reagan Revolution — and then adds this one:

One day in his office, [Tom] Udall picked up some tabloids from his coffee table and waved them at me. “You know about all these rags that cover the Hill, right?” he said, smiling. There are five dailies — Politico, The Hill, Roll Call, CongressDaily, and CQ Today — all of which emphasize insider conflict....Bloggers carry so much influence that many senators have a young press aide dedicated to the care and feeding of online media. News about, by, and for a tiny kingdom of political obsessives dominates the attention of senators and staff, while stories that might affect their constituents go unreported because their home-state papers can no longer afford to have bureaus in Washington.

[Chris] Dodd, who came to the Senate in 1981 and will leave next January, told me, “I used to have eleven Connecticut newspaper reporters who covered me on a daily basis. I don’t have one today, and haven’t had one in a number of years. Instead, D.C. publications only see me through the prism of conflict.” Lamar Alexander described the effect as “this instant radicalizing of positions to the left and the right.”

The new media environment may have some advantages over the old one, but the old one had a few too. This one is a pretty good example.