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December 11, 2012 8:45 AM Who Are Those Guys?

By Jonathan Zasloff

Or gals. Either way, some political anthropology is in order.

Via Drum, Dave Weigel objects to the media narrative about the supposed new Republican flexibility on raising taxes on those making more than $250,000:

When I carp about Meet the Pressistan, this is what I’m talking about — a mobius strip conversation among the same handful of people, giving the illusion that a broader conversation must also be moving the same way. For two weeks, Tom Cole has been on the record for raising the top rate. Tom Coburn has been talking this way for two years. When will somebody sit down the Sunday show bookers and tell them that the votes of reluctant House members, very vulnerable to primaries, matter more than whatever a compromise-friendly Republican senator is re-re-re-re-stating?

Before you can influence your target audience, though, you need to know something about them. And in this case, Blue Blogistan has little actionable intelligence on Meet the Pressistan; who are these Sunday Show Bookers anyway?

I’ve been wondering this for a while. We all know that John McCain has been on a Sunday show something like 765 straight weeks. But who makes this decision and why? Many of the normal variables don’t seem to apply here. Because people want to look at him (aka “the Megyn Kelly Effect”?). That won’t work, unless my straight male body is really missing something. Is it because McCain gets great ratings? Unlikely, because the point of ratings is that you are trying to present something new and different. In any event, IIRC, none of these shows gets good ratings: they are loss leaders for the networks and maybe even for the RNC Fox.

If we really want to try to advance what is called, in one of the great political euphemisms of all time, the “national conversation” (in the euphemism department this even beats “enhanced interrogation techniques”), then we really need to know who makes these decisions and on what basis they are made. I don’t even know if there are people who really have the job of “Sunday show bookers” — probably someone called a “producer” or “associate producer” or some such. How does one get those jobs? Are they journalists? Who tells them what to do? What are their or their bosses’ incentives? The Sunday show seems to me one of the great paradoxes of what passes for modern journalism: the cognoscenti spend a great time watching them and complaining about them but few people really seem to know how they actually work.

And if we don’t know that, we might as well find ourselves jumping off a high cliff into a river.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Jonathan Zasloff is a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.