Matt Lewis

The State of the Media is not strong

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

By now, much ink has been spilled over President Obama’s State of the Union and the Republican response.

I’ll stick to three things that struck me as interesting.

1. The big surprise of the night involved President Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9. This sounds good, but in terms of policy, it’s an odd move for a president who should be worried about job growth and unemployment.

An obvious point: If a small business owner can afford to pay a total of $30 per hour for help, the current minimum wage laws would allow her to hire four workers. But under President Obama’s proposal, that same small business would now be able to afford to hire just three workers.

2. The best part of President Obama’s speech — rhetorically speaking — involved gun control. The speech climaxed when Obama said: “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence — they deserve a simple vote.”

Again, this sounds inspiring. But as I’ve noted many times, the biggest obstacle might be vulnerable Democratic senators who are up for re-election in red states. And even they did pass something, it probably wouldn’t work.

3. Lastly, in recent months, I’ve been very critical of the media and of Twitter. When it comes to the breathless coverage of Marco Rubio taking a sip of water during the Republican response, I’m convinced I was right.

In the old days, taking a drink of water during a speech might — might — have warranted a passing mention in the newspaper. “Senator Rubio, stopping to take a sip of water, criticized the president’s spending, and called for the nation to tackle entitlement reform,” an article might have read.

In the Twitter era, however, this simple act went viral, spawning parody accounts, Gifs, and — sadly — a lot of commentary from ostensibly serious political observers.

CBS News even has a headline calling it “Water bottle-gate.”


The State of The Media is not strong.

UPDATE: Speaking of frivolous media coverage, right on cue, the great Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo tweets this:

Here’s why this matters. Journalists — like everyone else in a free market — respond to incentives. And the public rewards superficial stories over substantive reports. Thus, we get the press we deserve.

As NBC News’ Chuck Todd noted,