Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, January 11, 2008

Leave Predictive Journalism On The Sports Page

The mainstream media has proved themselves to be every bit as inept at predicting the future as they have been at accurately and impartially reporting the news of the day. Tuesday morning, the media were unanimous in their conviction that Hillary Clinton would suffer a staggering defeat in the New Hampshire primary at the hands of the their new darling, Barack Obama. Only anthropogenic global warming enjoyed an equivalent consensus among the know-it-alls.

The media were so confident of their predictions that, days before the vote, they had begun a deathwatch on the Hillary Clinton campaign. Generalissimo Francisco Franco on his deathbed was given better odds. Would she drop out after New Hampshire? Was she out of money? The postmortems were already written and published. Was it strategist Mark Penn’s fault? Shouldn’t some blame be laid at the feet of her narcissistic husband whose campaign speeches on her behalf were devoted to talking about himself? Or should Hillary bear the blame for being such a bad candidate? Has anyone running for the presidency ever appeared so icy and calculating? Every few weeks her campaign would announce a strategy intended to “humanize” her. Has any candidate ever required humanizing before? If so, has any attempt at humanization ever failed so miserably? And now that she was finished, could anyone stop Obama? The media were all but ordering baskets of rose petals to cast before him on his path to the White House.
In the end, it was Hillary 39% and Obama 36%, with John Edwards bringing up the rear with 17% of the vote.
The story line that no one seemed to have written in advance was a Hillary Clinton victory. Not since 2004, when Lewis Lapham’s story for Harper’s Magazine about his experiences at the Republican National Convention appeared on newsstands before the convention’s opening gavel, has predictive journalism endured such humiliation.
I’m a little surprised that no one in the Clinton campaign had the foresight to have “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline replicas printed. But then, humor and imagination have never intruded upon Hillary’s ambition, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The thin-lipped, grim-faced angry man-hating feminists that form her Praetorian Guard don’t look as though they’ve experienced a smile in their adult lives. I doubt that any could even manage one of those contrived cackles that Hillary Clinton resorts to when asked a difficult question without pulling a facial muscle.
According to media predictions in 2000, Al Gore won that presidential election. Ditto for John Kerry in 2004. Of course the howling moonbats on the left still insist that both elections were stolen, but aside from Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, I doubt that anyone in the mainstream media would speak aloud their belief that fraud turned the outcomes of those elections.
The media did not quite call the New Hampshire primary for Obama before the polls opened, but they were quite confident of the outcome. Mrs. Clinton apparently believed them as well as she reportedly did not have a victory speech prepared and seemed as lost as a Hollywood comedian during a writers’ strike when the time came to deliver one.
Hmmm. Now that I think about it, we have heard a lot less political commentary from actors this election cycle. Perhaps if we are fortunate, the writers’ strike will last until after the election. Can anyone really distinguish one episode of CSI from any other? I think that the only thing that changes from one show to the next is the specific sexual perversion associated with the murder.
On the sports pages, writers and pundits entertain themselves attempting to show off their analytical brilliance by predicting the outcome of athletic contests. Sports journalism will always invest more dead trees and printer’s ink predicting the outcome of a major sporting event than they will in actually reporting it. ESPN invests hours every weekend morning breaking down and predicting the winners and losers of that day’s upcoming games. Unfortunately, political journalism has followed the example of sports journalism. Although in truth, sports journalists have higher ethical standards, as they don’t try to influence the outcome of the events they cover.
In the end, only John Edwards got it right when he declared that: “It’s not about me.” Certainly most Democratic New Hampshire voters (83%) agreed with his assessment, so far as it went.

1 comment:

Nic said...

seemed like a case of lazy journalism... the journalist let the polls influence there analysis and when the polls ended up being wrong it was no surprise that the journalist made fools of themselves... though, it's kind of hard to blame them, polling seems to be the modus operandi of modern politics.