"Reckless Reporting" Is The Rage These Days



Could the lips of a metaphorical pig be that important to educational reform? A prerequisite to a balanced budget? Essential to national security? And yet, if I were to turn on my TV right now, or scroll through the links on any major newspaper's website, I could get the latest update on whose campaign ad was the smarmiest, or whose automated robocall repeated the biggest lie, or which candidate's attire was the most stylish.

"Reckless reporting" is the rage these days. The headlines of the country's major newspapers are filled with copy that seems lifted straight from the tabloids you see in the supermarket checkout line. Sensationalism is the order of the day - no insult is too petty, no passing remark too trite for these wordsmiths to put down for posterity.

Isn't that what Entertainment Tonight is for? Or The View? Or Good Morning America? Hard news in this country isn't just hard to come by any more - it's practically non-existent.

Am I asking the networks to "stick to the issues", the way my more pure-hearted brethren insist the media and the public should both conduct themselves? Not at all.

What I would like to see is a little more intelligence exhibited when journalists are reporting the news, instead of feigning naivete, when we all know damn well what levels of depravity and greed flourish within our government and within our political process. Anything less is unconscionable and juvenile.

But our media barons have built their fortunes on the need for people to believe in a mythical rendition of good versus evil, desire that can be commodified, personified into White Witches and Black Goblins, entities we can clearly and easily segregate into their separate camps.

    "When actual facts are used in the construction of news fictions, your story can be accurate, well-edited, within genre conventions, and, at the same time, deeply un-informational, not to mention wrong. In fact, accurate news about the race that subtracts from our understanding of it is one of the quirky features of chronic mindlessness in campaign media."

    "Jay Rosen - The Beast Without A Brain"


From the slivers of information, much of it hastily gathered, that comprise the set of statistics known as polling data, the punditocracy manages to come up with a hodgepodge of predictions, some extrapolated from patterns, some arrived at by dubious methodologies lacking in basic logic, some conjured out of whole cloth, all done in the name of telling the great unwashed what will happen in the future and why.

    "Voters are bombarded with information about which contender has 'what it takes' to be the best candidate. Who can deliver the most stirring rhetoric? Who can build the most attractive facade? Who can mount the wiliest counterattack? Whose life makes for the neatest story? Our political and media culture reflects and drives an obsession with who is going to win, rather than who should win."

    Mark Halperin


The fundamentals in this political race have been wholly ignored by the punditocracy. It doesn't really matter how many times Sarah Palin tells us "I put the plane on eBay", or how many times Barack Obama tells us "they think you're stupid." The most important thing that will take place in the next two months are new voter registrations. This is the only thing will determine the universe of voters the Obama and McCain camps will be working with as they both battle to attract those voters who are still undecided or can be easily swayed.

This chart is something that is on many of those desks your TV shows you that are a part of the background in the beehive of the CNN, MSNBC and the FOX news studios, much like the open kitchens at upscale restaurants:




This article in today's Time magazine online edition, Obama Banks on the Ground Game, which came out as I was writing this, explores the fundamentals of an election, something you will rarely see these days amidst all the drama and angst driven stories about the personalities of the candidates.

EXCERPTS FROM "Obama Banks on the Ground Game":

For the next month, the Obama campaign's ground focus is on finishing up the stunning gains in voter registration that it and the Democratic Party have made. Since January alone more than 3.5 million new voters have been registered in 17 of the 23 states tracked closely by the Obama campaign where information is available. Three states — Florida, Michigan and North Carolina — have seen increases of more than 400,000 new voters, and 10 more states have recorded new registrations of more than 100,000. Though these numbers include registrants to all parties, in 14 of the states at least half of the new voters are under 35, a key demographic for Obama.


There are an estimated 8 million Obama campaign volunteers who will be knocking on doors in their neighborhoods in the coming weeks.

The Obama campaign "has enthusiasm, they have a lot of people, they have money to finance in a serious way ground operations, and they have the resources in terms of good lists at their disposal," says Harold Ickes, a Democratic strategist and former top adviser to Hillary Clinton. "If the McCain people think that that's not serious, they're in for a big surprise. They should not pooh-pooh the ground game that Obama is mounting; it's a formidable one. I don't think in my experience in Democratic politics there's ever been anything like it."


I would imagine the McCain campaign certainly understands how serious this is, which is why you will continue to hear McCain and Palin take jabs at the idea of "community organizers", who are their biggest foes in this contest.

The Obama campaign has placed an emphasis on expanding the electoral map. Over Labor Day weekend, while waiting for Obama to finish an event, David Axelrod, the nominee's top strategist, noted that their strategy is broader than McCain's and therefore requires a lot more leg work, but that it has more of a potential payoff. "We're going into Nov. 4 with many different scenarios to get to 270 electoral votes," he says, squinting at airplanes buzzing overhead, part of Cleveland's annual air show.


This article in today's Real Clear Politics online edition, Palin Doesn't Matter, Numbers Do, also breaks down some fundamentals of the election according to U.S. Census figures, something else you will rarely see these days from a journalist:

EXCERPTS FROM "Palin Doesn't Matter, Numbers Do":


    According to the US Census Bureau:

    • In Ohio (which John Kerry lost by only 120,000 votes in 2004), 750,000 eligible voters between 18 and 22 who could not vote in 2004 can vote in 2008.

    • In Colorado (Kerry lost by 99,000) 293,000 between 18 and 22 have become eligible to vote in 2008.

    • In New Mexico (Kerry lost by 6000 votes) 145,000 kids have reached voting age.

    • In Michigan 690,000 have become eligible.

    • In Virginia 465,000 (Kerry lost by 260,000).

    • In Florida alone over 1 million young people have reached voting age since 2004.

    Then there are black voters. According to the Census Bureau there are 24 million eligible black voters in America of which 16 million (64%) are registered. In 2004 blacks cast 14 million votes or only 56% of the eligible black population. Blacks are registering to vote at historic rates in 2008 and turnout will soar above 2004 levels. Some examples:

    • In Colorado there are 110000 eligible black voters. Only 50,000 voted in 2004.

    • In Ohio there are 860,000 eligible black voters. Only 380,000 voted in 2004. (Remember Kerry lost by only 120,000 votes).

    • In Virginia, 945,000 eligible black voters, 465,000 voted in 2004.

    • Florida; 1,750,000 eligible blacks, 770,000 voted in 2004.



The "reckless reporting" that will continue the next few days will make scant mention of this, and when they do, it will be looked at with a great deal of skepticism.


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