It’s easy to rail against the political media’s fascination with trivia, but the frustration often misses the mark. Some reporting on human-interest stories relating to presidential candidates is normal; news outlets aren’t going to be all-substance, all-the-time. Adding some trivia to the mix can help make coverage of the campaign, for lack of a better word, “lively.”
The problem is when the media treats trivia as if it were serious. I don’t mind frivolous reporting, so much as I mind when news outlets pretend it isn’t frivolous reporting.
The media covered John Edwards’ haircuts as if they were important. Reporters scrutinized Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits and cleavage as if they were legitimate subjects of journalistic inquiry. Questions about lapel pins have actually managed to make their way, not only into the media’s coverage of the campaign, but into nationally televised debates.
And as of today, we're actually supposed to believe that Barack Obama's "low body fat" is an important campaign issue in 2008.