I was perusing the front page at Talking Points Memo this morning and noted that it’s almost 100 percent dedicated to two subjects: Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida and the hold on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to concerns about blood clots in a very tiny percentage of women. These are two subjects I haven’t discussed and probably would never discuss.
The issue with Gaetz is that he’s a backbencher in the House of Representatives–one of 435 members–who has very little power or importance. I may have noted his more odious behaviors a few times on this blog, but probably as part of my coverage of a broader story. His media profile is higher than his congressional one, but it still doesn’t amount to much. If a member of the House or Senate leadership, or an important committee chairman or ranking member, were facing possible felony changes for sex trafficking, I’d find it newsworthy for its potential to shake up the power structure in Washington. If a possible presidential candidate were caught up in a similar scandal, I’d cover it because of its obvious impact on the future of the country. But Matt Gaetz could voluntarily retire tomorrow and it’d have about the same impact as him being convicted of taking an underage girl across state lines for sexual purposes.
I do understand that this is a bad story for the Republican Party and that’s there’s some mileage to be made by sticking it in Republicans’ faces. But that isn’t my mission in life or for this blog. I’d consider it an unwelcome imposition on my readers if I turned this place into a breathless 24/7 report on the latest in Gaetz’s legal woes. Maybe the readers of Talking Points Memo feel differently, but I doubt it.
The J&J vaccine story is certainly a worthy topic. It’s an important story from several angles, including the underlying science, the wisdom of the Biden administration’s response, its possible impact on the speed with which we can control COVID-19, and its potential for ramping up or tamping down the publics’ willingness to take vaccines in general.
It’s not that the story is being closely followed by TPM that surprises me but that it’s making up about 50 percent of the site’s content. There’s just not that much to say. There’s a precautionary hold on the vaccine. The decision is under review. A decision will be made that balances risks, and that decision will be made by people with more expertise than I possess or would ever claim to possess. Again, people might want to know the latest status of the story, but there isn’t a lot that merits editorial comment from non-epidemiologists.
Maybe TPM has its finger on the pulse of the country and knows exactly what it’s doing to draw eyeballs and win subscriptions. It’s far better at both of those tasks than I’ll ever be. And maybe that’s a problem I should think about. Should I be choosing my topics with more of a focus on traffic and subscriptions?
I’d rather focus on what I do best, and that’s never been seizing on the hottest story and beating it to death.