Ezra Klein

Washington Post wunderkind and one of Matt's favorite bloggers.

RECENT POSTS

Four takes on a poll: a case study in the use of voice

How you express yourself has implications for how users react.

In yesterday’s Argo webinar on voice, opinion and objectivity, we discussed several blog posts, asking two main questions:

  1. Where does the post fall on a scale from “straight” (written in a non-controversial, just-the-facts style) to “assertive” (clearly making or assuming an argument)?
  2. What effects might that choice have on users’ reactions to the post?

We kicked off the discussion by examining four approaches to the same story.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg released the results of a poll of likely voters in this November’s midterm elections. Posts about polls are almost perfect for our purposes, because it’s possible to read so much into them. There’s no “objective” reading of a poll – there are the banner top-line findings, then all sorts of murky findings that are subject to vastly varying interpretations. Any of the findings you choose to emphasize can reveal your particular biases, preferences, and interests. Here are four different treatments, along with my analysis of their effects: Continue reading

Voice, opinion and objectivity: An Argo webinar

I had a nuanced conversation today with the Argo bloggers and NPR’s Mark Memmott about the effects of different ways of couching perspectives and information. I’m posting the slides and a teensy bit of summary here now, with more context to come later.

Quick summary: I opened the conversation by saying that I didn’t intend to use the word “objectivity” much in relation to the conversation. To the extent I use the term, I talk about it as an ideal applied to a method, rather than to particular material. (I wouldn’t say a particular post is “objective,” but I might say a journalist pursued information in a rigorous, objective fashion.) I’ve taken inspiration on this point from Rosenstiel and Kovach’s Elements of Journalism, which clarified the distinction:

The call for journalists to adopt objectivity was an appeal for them to develop a consistent method of testing information – a transparent approach to evidence – precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work.

Continue reading

A blogger’s morning ritual: 5 points to keep in mind

One of the more dismal feelings any writer can have is that sense of waking up to an empty page that demands to be filled with thoughts. When you write daily and in public, that sensation is particularly acute. Fortunately, you have a wonderfully useful tool to avert that possibility: the precious morning ritual. Continue reading

The Top 5 things I like about The Atlantic’s ‘What I read’

By now, no doubt, you are well versed with Matt’s mantra… wait for it…  package, repackage, repeat!

One of the many ways to get there is the regular series – which can then also provide fodder to be repackaged in a ‘list’ or ‘tips’ post down the road.

I wanted to highlight one example of that that works for me at The Atlantic.

The Atlantic Wire runs a series called, “What I read,” which is exactly as it sounds.  Here is how they describe it:

How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various friends and colleagues who seem well-informed to describe their media diets.

The latest post is a Q&A with NYU journalism prof Jay Rosen. Not only is it a good example of packaging content (which it can then repackage in any number of ways), but I thought it might be instructive for our bloggers to see how Rosen handles his information stream.

As accomplished journalists maybe you’ve already found a sweet spot in your information management. But it’s something most people struggle with as the streams continue to multiply and get noisier. And as a beat blogger now, you may find your methods need updating. And fortunately, the tools keep getting better.

Rosen points out that his first read in the morning is Twitter. Then it’s off to the industry blogs and aggregators. I couldn’t agree more. If you have a tightly focused Twitter list, you’ll find much more relevant content there, to start your day with, then you will by scanning your local paper or the NYTimes or Wall Street Journal. Since you’ve had to set up a Twitter Times account to feed your blog’s right rail, hopefully you find some utility in it yourself as well.

So, here are the Top 5 things I find alluring about The Atlantic Wire series:

1.) As a blogger, the formula makes it fairly easy to produce
2.) Other people are doing the heavy lifting (you get to play editor instead of tortured writer)
3.) They’ve tapped interesting people who can ostensibly help your friend the reader with their wisdom.
4.) The series can be repeated
5.) The series can be packaged and repackaged.

After you visit Rosen’s, ‘What I Read’,  check out Clay Shirky and Ezra Klein’s daily routine. Then tell us, what do you read?

Follow-up: The new journalistic value

I wanted to call your attention to an online conversation I’ve been participating in that I think is especially salient to the work of our Argo-bloggers.

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “The Attention Deficit: The need for timeless journalism.” The central idea/question of that post was this:

Journalism can now exist outside of time. The only reason we’re con­strained to promoting news on a minutely, hourly, daily or weekly basis is because we’ve inherited that notion from media that really do operate in fixed time cycles. But we now have the potential to signal importance on whatever scale you might imagine — the most important stories of the year, of the decade, of the moment.

What are the most important issues facing this community at this time? What would our sites look like if we asked ourselves that question? What would our journalism look like?

This week, Megan Garber of the Nieman Journalism Lab asked, “What if we had a news outlet exclusively focused on follow-up journalism?”

What if we had an outlet dedicated to continuity journalism — a news organization whose sole purpose was to follow up on stories whose sheer magnitude precludes them from ongoing treatment by our existing media outlets? What if we took thePolitiFact model — a niche outfit dedicated not to a particular topic or region, but to a particular practice — and applied it to following up on facts, rather than checking them? What if we had an outlet dedicated to reporting, aggregating, and analyzing stories that deserve our sustained attention — a team of reporters and researchers and analysts and engagement experts whose entire professional existence is focused on keeping those deserving stories alive in the world?

In the comments, I linked to my earlier post, causing Megan to follow up today with this:

In our current approach to news, ideas and connections and continuities — context, more generally — often become subsidiary to “now” itself. Newness trumps all, to occasionally devastating effect. There’s an economic reason for that, sure (the core of it being that audiences like nowness just as much as journalists). But we also now have tools that invite an intriguing possibility: new taxonomies of time. We have Twitter’s real-time news flow. We have Wikipedia’s wide-angle perspective. We have, above all, the web itself, a platform that’s proven extraordinarily good at balancing urgency with memory. We’d do well to make more of it — if for no other reason than the fact that, as Thompson puts it, “a journalism unfettered by time would align much more closely with timeless reality.”

And now I’ll give you one more quote from an article that wasn’t a part of this conversation at all. I think this particular quote is quite salient to this thread (and not just because – as you know – I’m an Ezra Klein fanboy):

Klein is explicit on this point, outlining a role for journalists that sounds as much like teaching as reporting. “I think that we as a profession need to become more comfortable with repetition,” he says. “What is newest is often not what is most helpful for readers.” A case in point: when explaining why legislation is bottled up in Congress, Klein routinely discusses the skyrocketing use of Senate filibusters—a recent and consequential change in the rules of politics that nonetheless doesn’t count as “news” on most days.

For now, I encourage you to read all four of these entries; I’m not going to expand on these posts too much. You’re probably beginning to get my point. But, in keeping with the theme, expect me to follow up on this.

First take on Weigelgate

In my world, the trending story of the minute is the departure of blogger Dave Weigel from the Washington Post this past weekend. If this doesn’t ring any bells for you, here’s a quick-hit summary courtesy of Howie Kurtz:

David Weigel, who was hired by The Washington Post to blog about conservatives, resigned Friday after leaked online messages showed him disparaging some Republicans and commentators in highly personal terms. [...]

Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti said Weigel had called and offered to resign Thursday evening and he accepted on Friday.

“Dave did excellent work for us,” Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said. But, he said, “we can’t have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work. . . . There’s abundant room on our Web site for a wide range of viewpoints, and we should be transparent about everybody’s viewpoint.”

The Washington Post has been well out in front of other newspapers in hiring bloggers who blur the line between reporter and columnist. Dave Weigel was one of these hires. They’ve mostly held off on attaching any label besides “blogger” to the growing roster of WaPo bloggers that includes Weigel, Greg Sargent and Ezra Klein. In this case, Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander says the fuzziness of that role has damaged their standing in the eyes of readers. Moreover, the incident threatens to bring the Objectivity Wars back into the forefront of the discussion over the future of journalism.

I’m going to sidestep the Objectivity Wars for now and highlight one response to Weigel’s departure that I found particularly astute:

I want to push back just a little on the idea [...] that some kind of blog-reporter ethos is dumbfounding institutions like the Post because it’s such an unpredecedented challenge to traditional newspaper ideals of objectivity, while at the same time confuting the stereotype of blogging as mere pontificating about other people’s work. Blog-reporter ethos appears to consist of

* original reporting on first-hand sources
* a frankly stated point-of-view
* tempered by a scrupulous concern for fact
* an effort to include a fair account of differing perspectives
* ending in a willingness to plainly state conclusions about the subject

I submit that this is just magazine-journalism ethos with the addition of cat pictures. If you think about what good long and short-form journalism looks like at a decent magazine, it looks like the bullet-points above. I’m not just talking about ideological organs. The writer who sells to Harper’s or The National Geographic or even Runner’s World is going to tend to show a personality and take a definite perspective, while at the same time doing fresh reporting from primary sources, whether human, documentary or physical. The writer will make sure to include a substantial account of challenges to her perspective, if only to knock it down later.

I think Jim Manzi – the author of this passage – is spot-on. As I’ve suggested before on at least a couple of occasions, great journo-blogging shares an awful lot of characteristics with great long-form journalism. I think that’s why magazines such as the New Republic, Time, Wired, and the Atlantic Monthly have been way out ahead of newspapers like the Washington Post in developing high-profile voices in this arena. We grant long-form journalists more leeway to draw conclusions and adopt perspectives, partly because they have more space with which to sound out a variety of views and present nuance, and partly because it becomes harder to maintain the appearance of neutrality with every word one writes.

What the Weigel story makes very clear is that we haven’t yet settled on our expectations for journalists in this new environment. Are they Sewell Chan or Seymour Hersh? Do we treat them, in other words, like magazine reporters or like newspaper reporters?

The pat answer, of course, is that we treat them like bloggers. But I think that unwillingness to discuss boundaries or set expectations is what got the WaPo into this mess in this case. This is something I want to discuss with each of the Argo editors, with one guideline front-and-center: There are a number of overlapping concepts here  - ideology, fairness, snark, neutrality, partisanship, bias, objectivity, analysis, perspective – and it’s important to keep in mind that all of these things are related, but each of them is distinct.

Tomorrow I’m going to participate in an event at the Newseum with one of my favorite journalism ethicists, Poynter’s Kelly McBride. I suspect Kelly’s got some terrific thoughts about how Weigelgate might shape our thinking. If I’m right, I’ll try to capture some of those thoughts to share with you.

What constitutes a “bloggy sensibility”?

Flickr photo courtesy of user minifig.

In talking with the Argo editors, I’ve often said that we’re looking for reporter-bloggers who demonstrate a “bloggy sensibility.” Just as there are folks who intuitively grasp the lede-to-kicker rhythm of a great newspaper story, and people who have the ear for tone and timing that a great radio story demands, I think there are writers out there who just grok blogging.

But what does that bloggy sensibility look like? How do we identify it? And which aspects of it can be taught?

Fundamentally, of course, the sensibility is an intangible – we know it when we see it. But if you forced me to write a formula to determine someone’s blogginess, I’d probably emphasize five factors:

They’ve got voice.

This is the number one thing. In journalism, the institutional voice often cloaks a writer’s natural charm and wit. Institutional voice works very poorly in the blogosphere. Personality wins.

An infinite variety of tones work well on the Web – gee-whiz, insidery, breathless, literaryconfessionalerudite, pithy, wonkish, and of course, snarky. I think the only essential is that the writing betray the tendencies, preoccupations, and idiosyncrasies of a real person.

They cut to the chase.

Whatever the genre, the Web consistently rewards snappy, economical writing. The newspaper lede is a narrative invention devised for a general-interest audience – an arresting literary moment or clever turn-of-phrase the writer uses to hook you into the main story at hand. On the Web, writers are allowed and encouraged to get straight to the point.

Distillation, synthesis and hierarchy are all prized qualities in online writing. Where a newspaper story might demand a narrative transition, readers on the Web are perfectly all right with bullet points. Great long-form writers package mountains of information into an elegantly shaped, smooth and flowing story. Great bloggers, on the other hand, unpack complex information into discrete points and lay those out in concise and orderly fashion. If he weren’t busy being President, I imagine Barack Obama would have made a terrific blogger. Danah Boyd is an extraordinarily nuanced thinker, yet her writings and speeches are marvelously easy to parse. In a newsier vein, Ezra Klein has a great talent for weaving order out of chaos.

They’re constant communicators.

The pace at which successful bloggers tend to post often intimidates storytellers used to media with longer turnaround times. But one reason that bloggers can be so prolific is that they overshare. Newspaper reporters and broadcast producers leave a metric ton of material – quotes, press releases, public records, published reports, internal documents – on the cutting-room floor as they develop The Story that will appear in the paper or on-air. For a blogger, everything is fodder for a post.

Isn’t this a great quote? Post. Check it out, interesting video! Post. Ooh, quick news flash! Post. Just caught up on my morning reading. Post. News conference coming up, here’s what I’ll be looking for. Post.

They command your attention.

In the not-so-recent past, reporters considered publication as the final step in the life cycle of an article. You drafted a piece, polished it to a shine, and it was done. When newspaper reporters work on a piece, they don’t tend to focus directly on how many people will read it; instead, they focus on where in the paper it will be placed. You might consider this a subtle distinction – after all, placement helps drive popularity. But the consequence was that it mattered less how a story played in the real world; the reporter’s goal was to produce stories that sold well internally, stories that fit nicely into the content mix of a section.

Great bloggers work with a perpetual sense of the post-publication life of a post. After something gets published, people check it out, they comment on it, they pass it around. Or they don’t, which we finally have the tools to determine.

So bloggers design their posts to move. They craft strong headlines, they spread the word through their social networks, they dip in to comment threads, they pay attention to metrics. They work to develop a genuine sense of their community and its predilections, and they adjust accordingly.

But here’s the rub: truly great bloggers lead just as much as they follow. They use their mastery of their crowd to guide its attention, to find ways to hook you into engaging with things you might not otherwise try. This is how Ezra Klein gets his community to indulge him in a discussion of actuarial values.

They’re the life of the party.

The discussion on any topic happens in a number of places online, and the best bloggers always seem to be in all of them. They’re hobnobbing with subject experts on Twitter, they’re in regular dialogue with other bloggers and online communities on the topic, and they show up on air and in the press.

There’s a chicken-and-egg issue here, of course. Obviously a popular blogger is going to be feted all over social and commercial media. But the best bloggers really seem to enjoy their position atop a conversational ecosystem.

Classic reporters still obsess over the pursuit of the scoop. Bloggers who’ve achieved the type of ubiquity I’m talking about understand that today, owning the community is more important than getting the news out first. Even if someone else breaks news on their beat, they’re still a key participant in the conversation about the news, and might possibly even deliver the authoritative take.

How writing a blog is like writing a book

Chris Anderson blogged his book The Long Tail into a blockbuster. Flickr image courtesy of user Pop!Tech.

Peruse the New York Times Bestseller List for nonfiction at any moment, and you’ll find several familiar archetypes – celebrity or politician autobiographies, self-help tomes, partisan political mind-candy packaged as cultural commentary, and a smattering of works from popular historians and magazine authors. In recent years, though, you might have noticed a new vanguard taking up more and more space on the list – the blogger-turned-author. (Looking at the list right now, I’d count 4 of the top 35 titles as being blog-driven projects – Dan Pink, Nouriel Roubini, Jen Lancaster, and Simon Johnson / James Kwak.)

The blog-to-book-deal pathway is now so well-trod that there are entire blogs devoted to dreaming up snarky blog-to-book ideas. But there are several reasons these two great tastes taste so great together:

A table of contents is like a taxonomy.

A key part of any nonfiction book proposal is the description of how the book will be organized. Often, even plot-driven books become mostly thematic in their organization. For example, Jonathan Alter’s book The Promise – about President Obama’s first year in office – hews very loosely to a chronological thread from inauguration to the 2010 State of the Union. But if you look at the book’s chapters, they’re all about topics – Cabinet selection, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, the financial crisis, health care reform, Afghanistan and Iraq, etc.

Planning for a nonfiction blog requires similar thinking about what themes and topics you’ll hit on regularly. Like a draft table of contents, the taxonomy helps you determine the scope and emphasis of your site.

Compelling books and blogs often employ a core narrative engine – a unifying objective, big idea, mystery, or argument.

This is what I call the quest. At its most basic, the narrative engine is a gimmick – the author plans to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s most famous cookbook, or read every entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Done deftly, it transforms messy, pattern-defying reality into a vivid and graspable narrative.

Michael Lewis’ The Big Short lays out the fundamentals behind the financial crisis by focusing on the story of the small club of individuals who made their fortunes betting against the housing market. That framework, while narrow, is flexible enough to allow Lewis to touch on diverse contributors to the crisis – regulatory failures, market failures, foreign investment, individual irresponsibility and fraud – without overwhelming his readers.

Of all the highly-regarded economists qualified to comment about the causes behind the crisis, Simon Johnson might be among the most prominent. He’s appeared all over public media – Fresh Air, This American Life, Bill Moyers’ Journal – and has been ubiquitous in news stories about the disaster. I’m convinced Johnson’s hit blog, The Baseline Scenario, is a key reason he’s become such a key source. And I’m further convinced that what makes the blog really sing is its unifying argument – about the peril of allowing banks to become and remain “too big to fail.” In post after post, and in book chapter after book chapter, Johnson and Kwak explain all the little ways in which megabanks pose the potential to distort our financial and political systems to the point where disastrous crashes become inevitable.

Successful authors tend to write every day.

This is the most consistent detail I recognize in authors’ stories about their processes. They force themselves to write almost every day. Writing creates its own inertia. When you start putting words on a page, and plunge ahead with it no matter what comes, you tend to end up with better material than if you hem and haw over every word. When Chip Scanlan taught reporting and writing at the Poynter Institute, his most constant piece of advice to writers was, “Lower your standards.” Get your words out there before they have the chance to logjam your mind. Then refine.

Blogging demands similar discipline. It requires a rigorous, regular pace, but that pace itself quickly makes you better. The journey from classic long-form reporter to true blogger-at-heart is reflected in posts like this, from James Fallows:

I thought this was — yet again — a “surprisingly” effective Big Speech by Obama, though with a very few revealing lapses. Will take my time on doing the Full Annotated Version tomorrow, ideally by early afternoon.

“Lowering your standards,” when applied to journalistic blogging, doesn’t mean shirking responsibility for what we post and tossing off unverified rumors on a whim. It means exposing our process at moments when we haven’t yet produced a refined result. It means writing posts that begin with, “I’m working on … ” and continue with, “but I’m struggling to …”

Ernest Hemingway often described a technique that strikes me as very bloggy. He actually concluded his writing for the day right as he was hitting his stride. That way, he could plant the seeds for some of his best ideas in the afternoon and reap the bounty the next morning, before he was truly warmed up.

Making a book and a site successful both require a flair for person-to-person marketing and promotion.

You’ve poured your heart into researching and writing a book. Years of missing deadlines, drafting and redrafting, getting coached, paring down extraneous beautiful passages like so many pieces of your soul – it all culminates in the publication of a book. And at last, you get to rest, right?

Heh.

The book release is the moment when some of the most grueling work comes in – traveling to city after city, conducting readings in whatever bookstore will have you, signing covers, doing interviews. When selling 20,000 copies can launch you onto national bestseller lists, it makes sense to target 100 potential buyers at a book-signing.

This is one of the key reasons successful blogs so often result in successful books. When publishers see hundreds of thousands (or even tens of thousands) of regular visitors on a site, they know that a solid percentage of that audience might convert to buyers upon release, propelling the book onto the charts before the author even practices her signature. The blog becomes a key part of the book’s promotion.

But getting people to the site in the first place is an exercise that can require as much devotion (if not as much travel) as the book tour. It means engaging key conversation-leaders on Twitter and on their own sites, like a hundred little bookstores, getting in front of 100 new potential users every chance you get.

Dark secret of blogging #6: Explain, explain, explain.

Flickr photo courtesy of user Pip R. Lagenta.

Classic news folks have this habit of being flabbergasted when they discover their audience members don’t understand a topic they’ve been covering. “But we did a big explainer on this two weeks ago!” they say. After the health care reform battle finally reached its climax – the signing of the bill – reporters said they were astonished by their audiences’ hunger for explanation of what had just passed into law.

They shouldn’t have been surprised. Having watched how content gets picked up, I’m convinced that the hunger for explanation is inexhaustible.

It makes logical sense. As headlines whiz past you, bringing news of more developments than you could ever keep track of, you start to sort of fake it. You pretend you’re following news on the health care debate, when really you’re just snatching random stories out of the ether, hoping for a snippet of comprehension that’ll get you by in conversation. We behave this way on issue after issue. When pressed, how many of us – even devoted news consumers – could tell you what was actually in that Arizona immigration law that got all the coverage?

The best bloggers picked up on this early. I’ll refer you once again to Nick Denton’s memo, where he says, “When remotely possible, turn news into explanation.” This is sound, sound advice. Even if you’re reporting a news development – an important bill passes another procedural hurdle – framing it as explanation (“What today’s vote means for the immigration law”) is an effective tactic for pulling in an audience that would ordinarily pass it by. There’s no shame in repeating yourself, which is why I say the word thrice: Explain, explain, and then explain again.

By this point, you knew an Ezra Klein shoutout was coming. Just savor for a moment this set of post titles: (1) “What is an excise tax, and can it save health reform?”; (2) “Explaining the excise tax”; (3) “Explaining the excise tax, part 2″; (4) “The five most promising cost controls in the health care bills”; (5) “The Baucus Bill: taxing insurers”; (6) “The excise tax and its critics” … I could have selected more, but I think the point is made. Klein created opportunities to explain this critical part of the health reform legislation, and he linked to those explanations incessantly. You couldn’t be even a casual consumer of his blog and not understand what the excise tax does.

A discipline of constant, redundant explanation helps our bloggers too. The more we explain concepts, the better we get at explaining them. Every time Klein explained the excise tax, his description got a little snappier – more nuanced yet more understandable – and he probably understood the concept a little better. And I suspect the redundancy didn’t hurt him with his devoted readers; every time he explained the concept, I understood it a little better as well.

Dark secret of blogging #5: Own the system, own the story.

We know we can’t easily break the world down into neat, manageable patterns. But I’ve never met a great beat reporter who didn’t try.

As we gain expertise in a subject area, we can’t help applying patterns to it - establishing the most influential players, identifying related schools of thought, discerning trends unfolding over years. This is the mental model that enables great beat reporters to determine what constitutes news, to figure out promising avenues for investigation, and to stay ahead of a topic so they can distill it for their audience.

This hard-won pattern recognition – invaluable in any beat reporter – is among the most prized traits of a star blogger.

You’ll often hear me sing the praises of Ezra Klein, the wunderkind Marcus Brauchli seems determined to clone. When Klein embarked on his quest to determine the fate of health care reform, he had the benefit of getting to absorb some of the knowledge of reporters who’d come before him, several of whom had recorded their mental model of the subject in books. T.R. Reid, for example, had produced a book distilling all 200 of the world’s health care systems down into four broad types, each comprising three basic goals. New Republic reporter Jonathan Cohn, who’d often trade links with Klein throughout the battle for reform, had written his own book on the subject.

So when he began blogging about health care reform at the Washington Post, Klein laid his framework out for his readers, in the simplest possible terms: “Health-care reform has two parts, coverage and cost. Coverage will require new money in the short-term. Cost will save money in the long-term.” The effort to strike this simple balance – coverage and cost – drove much of the action over reform, and laying it out in these terms made the quest much more manageable. Once you understood that the excise tax was the reformers’ biggest hope for containing long-term costs, its place in the larger story, and the reason for its prominence in Klein’s coverage, was clear.

As Klein moves on to the subject of financial regulation reform, he’s doing the same thing, imposing patterns on the story as he develops them. Early on in his coverage of the subject, he unearthed a key insight: that reformers are split between wanting to reform the financial regulatory system and wanting to reform Wall Street itself. This was critical to his dawning understanding of the main battle at hand, and he continues developing this insight in post after post.

This has the effect of slowly binding me tighter to Klein’s perspective. Given the benefit of his framework to understand the story of financial reform, I now constantly look for his interpretation of developments in the story’s progress. That’s what I mean when I say “own the system, own the story.” If you can give your users a coherent framework for understanding a topic, you become their guide to the topic. Even if someone else breaks a story on your beat, your users will look to you for the definitive analysis.

But isn’t this reductive and flip? Health care reform certainly consisted of more than just cost control and coverage expansion. What about all the provisions in the legislation for upping the effectiveness of care?

As I said at the outset of this post, the world is certainly much more complex – in pretty much every case – than an easily-distilled framework can capture. But it’s much easier to explore nuance from an orderly starting point. Having laid out the main vectors of health reform so starkly, Klein was much freer to complicate his themes, taking us into the nooks and crannies of actuarial values and Stein’s Law. As I mentioned, Klein’s collected writings on health care probably amount to a Robert Caro-length tome.

The format allows plenty of room for complexity, if we can present it within a framework that makes sense.