Mark Schmitt on Budget Coverage...
Let me elevate a comment by Mark Schmitt:
Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Stan Collender and Budget Coverage (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?): What a perfect example. If you have access to any other source of information -- Collender's column, or the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities website, for example, you never need to read the Post budget coverage unless you need a reminder of how few reporters really understand it.
This side-by-side shows one reason why: Post reporters, like most people think budget=numbers. Therefore, reporting about the budget means reporting the numbers that are in a given budget document. So Weisman has ten figures before Collender has even one. What Collender knows is that what are called "budgets" are simply moves in a process. That the House Budget Resolution assumes a 20% cut in env/natural resources discretionary spending is not the story, because that cut will never happen and its trivial on the scale of the budget anyway.
I think what sometimes happens is that reporters are intimidated by numbers, and feel they have to fully master the numbers in the budget -- or whatever budget document is at hand -- and so become transfixed by them.
Collender understands that all these actions are just moves in a game, and it's all about the process. He's not intimidated by the numbers in the budget documents, so he can move on to the bigger picture.
And then there's also the factor that American journalists just aren't allowed to write sentences like, "you can't help but get the distinct feeling that more than one person in Washington is fiddling while the budget fire spreads." They might know it, but they need to quote someone to say it.
I would say it's even worse than that. The Post has thirteen numbers, NONE OF WHICH ARE PLACED IN ANY MEANINGFUL INTERPRETIVE CONTEXT!! NONE!!
Excuse me. I'm better now. I think.