Friday, September 21, 2012

Trusting the Media? Give Us Something to Trust

Graphic from The Monkey Cage shows declining trust in media.
This presidential election, like so many others of recent vintage, has been reported abysmally across the board. We all remember the great importance put on Al Gore's brown suits, how John Kerry--an honest-to-god war hero--was reported as a coward, how George Bush was called a "rancher" (he bought his damn ranch in 1999 in order to run with it), and other examples abound.

This election season, it's not so much a mis-characterization of candidates--I think they've been pretty well nailed down by most--but the fact that nobody in the country has a poll that is believeable. They're all over the board with these things. On the same day, we see that Obama has virtually locked up the Electoral College (Huff Post), but the candidates are in a dead heat (CBS News). The important contested states (and Virginia is one of them) give a 5 to 10 point lead to one, then the other.

Republican Party insiders are throwing in the towel in one report and the Democrats are panicking in the next. What the hell's going on? Somebody has to know something. Has corporate influence upon media so corrupted the system that simple reports can't be affected? It's frustrating and exasperating--like watching Tennessee play Florida in football, if you get my drift.

We won't even talk about local reporting of statewide and congressional races because it's almost non-existent. Why a local daily paper or a medium-market television station can't have seasoned, excellent, insider political reporters who tell us important things about our candidates (like who their opponents are, for example--quick, who's running against Bob Goodlatte and Morgan Griffith?) is beyond my comprehension. They have full-time reporters doing cute animal stories, but most of us are concerned about issues larger than that.

John Sides at The Monkey Cage has this explanation (partially):

"Party polarization has raised the stakes in elections. And polarization combined with the growth of partisan media options has created an incentive for party leaders and activists to discredit the mainstream media among their supporters. Party leaders convince their partisans in the mass public to resist informative messages from the mainstream media and ideologically hostile outlets, and instead rely more on ideologically friendly new outlets. 

"In doing this, they can help to inoculate their supporters against voting for the other side. Polarization created the incentive for political media criticism, but the changing media industry created the opportunity for it to be effective because there were so many nonmainstream media outlets providing alternative messages.

"Republicans were the earliest to adopt this strategy, and are still by far its most intense practitioners. But Democrats have also pursued this strategy to a lesser degree."

Where the hell is the news media? What has happened to it? Can it possibly be revived? And people in my profession wonder why the hell their companies are dying. Sheesh.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dan, forget the media polls! They're sloppy and biased.

    Check out what the political futures market has to say. Just a few days ago, Obama's chances of re-election were pegged at a 67% by the traders on Today, those chances have risen to 71%, while Romney's dropped from 32% to 28%.

    Also, have a look at what the Iowa Electronic Markets say. See the "winner take all" chart. The bid column represents the chances. Obama is at 73% and Romney is as 26%.

    Look at this IEM graph, which currently shows a huge difference in price for Obama futures (high) versus Romney futures (low).

    The IEM hasn't been wrong in predicting the presidential election outcome since 1988, according to this Time article:,28804,1856094_1856096_1856113,00.html

    So forget the polls. Look at where people are putting their money.