David Folkenflik

Geraldo Rivera of the Fox News Channel once described David Folkenflik as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, gave him a "laurel" for his reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.

Folkenflik is NPR's media correspondent based in New York City. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines and shows, including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation. His reports offer insight into the operation of the media amid tectonic shifts in the industry and cast light on figures who help shape the way the news business works. NPR's listeners were first to learn how the corporate owners of the glossy magazine GQ sought to smother distribution of its provocative story about Russian Premier Vladimir Putin. They also found out, amid the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church, how a small, liberal Catholic weekly based in Kansas City had been documenting allegations of abuse by priests for a generation. Folkenflik provides media criticism on the air and at NPR.org on coverage of a broad array of issues — from the war in Afghanistan, to the financial crisis, to the saga of the "Balloon Boy."

Before joining NPR in 2004, Folkenflik spent more than a decade at the Baltimore Sun, where he covered higher education, Congress, and the media. He started his career at the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun. In 1991, Folkenflik graduted with a bachelor's degree in history from Cornell University, where he served as editor-in-chief of The Cornell Daily Sun.

A three-time winner of the Arthur Rowse Awards for Press Criticism from the National Press Club, Folkenflik won the inaugural 2002 Mongerson Award for Investigative Reporting on the News, presented by the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the University of Virginia's Center for Governmental Studies. Folkenflik's work has also been recognized with top honors from the National Headliners Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. He was the first Irik Sevin Visiting Fellow at Cornell and speaks frequently at colleges across the country. He has served as a media analyst on such television programs as CNN's Reliable Sources, ABC News' Nightline, Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, and MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Philadelphia's financially troubled newspapers — the jointly owned Inquirer and Daily News — may be sold for the fourth time in six years. Circulation and advertising are down. A new set of layoffs has been announced, and the papers' newsrooms are about to be combined with the news site Philly.com.

But reporters and editors there are outraged by something else: the actions of their own publisher to influence their coverage of the company's sale.

The voice mail and computer hacking and police bribery scandal that has roiled the British newspaper industry has also led to calls for government regulation of the press in one of the world's greatest democracies.

Some newspaper executives, such as Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail and editor-in-chief of the Mail on Sunday, are attempting to draw the line.

This may well be the worst story you've come across yet on politics.

Really, I beg you: You should have very, very low expectations for this story.

And this expectations thing is important stuff.

Pundits, reporters and the campaigns themselves have devoted a lot of energy to setting expectations for the candidates' performances.

With election season in full swing now, the sheer amount of media coverage can be daunting to anyone trying to follow the races.

For the press covering politics, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has this reminder: Most people are visitors to the land of political obsession, not full-time residents.

Folkenflik tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin that much of the campaign coverage "assumes that everybody is up to date on real minutiae."

Some people don't have the time to keep up with minor — or even major — developments.

At the start of his show yesterday morning, MSNBC's Chuck Todd could not contain his glee: "It's caucus day. Finally! I've been waiting for this day for 3 1/2 years."

Speak for yourself, Chuck.

In the build-up to the Iowa caucuses, we heard about the ground game, the expectations game, the endorsement game, and the super PACs. And we get the justification: It's blood sport, it's a vetting process, it's a surge, it's a generous slathering of awesome on an Iowa corn dog.

The fact-checking movement has been gaining momentum and gaining fans. Journalistic fact checkers serve as referees by calling foul — and fair — on various assertions by politicians, public figures and pundits with heavily documented analyses. But a slow-burn backlash flared into the open this past week.

Fact-checking sites like PolitiFact referee assertions by politicians, public figures and pundits. The fact-checking movement has been gaining momentum — and fans. But PolitiFact has come under fire after announcing its "Lie of the Year": a claim by some Democrats and liberals about a House Republican plan to change Medicare.

Plenty of folks have their unshakable obsessions. Indiana Jones sought the Holy Grail. Captain Ahab pursued the Great White Whale. For New York Times columnist Gail Collins, it's her fixation on the voyages of an Irish Setter named Seamus.

"For some reason, the idea that you've got this guy who would drive all the way to Canada with an Irish setter sitting on the top of the car — it absolutely fascinated me," Collins says.

The influential writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday at the age of 62 from complications of cancer of the esophagus. Hitchens confronted his disease in part by writing, bringing the same unsparing insight to his mortality that he had directed at so many other subjects.

Over the years, Hitchens' caustic attention was directed at a broad range of subjects, including Henry Kissinger, Prince Charles, Bob Hope, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a newfound eagerness to talk to reporters — some of them, at least.

To hear Romney tell it, you'd think he had always welcomed the press corps.

"You're going to see me all over the country, particularly in early primary states," Romney said last week to Fox News host Neil Cavuto. "I'll be on TV — I'll be on Fox a lot because you guys matter when it comes to Republican primary voters. I want them to hear my message and have an opportunity to make their choice."

Off Mic, On Script

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was once written off as a footnote in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. But, for the moment, polls now show him among the leaders.

Gingrich may have found his voice, in part, by turning the tables on the political press. Republicans have been doing this for decades — quite explicitly at least since Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in 1968.

In Gingrich's case, it was a strategy masquerading as a tactic — one that he adopted over the summer at a time of desperation.