Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Analyzing the Analysis

How to explain the bizarro article coming out in Thursday's New York Times, titled "Analyzing the New Hampshire Surprise"?

Jacques Steinberg and Janet Elder ostensibly set out to answer one question: how could so many "pollsters and news organizations... have not seen it coming?" Oddly, the daring duo finds no "specific evidence" for any answer that might embarrass anyone even remotely connected with the mainstream media.

No sign of bias. No laziness. No group-think. No careerist urge to regurgitate conventional wisdom. No failure on the part of reporters toreport rather than merely repeat the commonly accepted narrative. Nope, everything was just hunky-dory with all the reporters.

There is this, however. Steinberg and Elder say that WaPo reporter Joel Achenbach wrote on his newspaper's blog:
“You had to see the crowds! Feel the energy!”“O.K., so in retrospect a lot of those people were probably college kids on break from Massachusetts or Maryland,
Well, all right! Now we're getting somewhere! Turns out it wasn't the failure of the mainstream media! It was the fault of all those crafty college kids who horned in where they didn't belong!

We're not buying it -- and here's why. Deep into the piece, Steinberg and Elder selectively quote from retired NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. We say "selectively" because they seem to have deep-sixed the most important thing Brokaw had to say.

See if you can tell what in his remarks the New York Times reporters didn't think was newsworthy. (Hint: It's identified below in boldface print.)

In the telling by Steinberg and Elder, this was Mr. Brokaw's comment:
“Well,” responded Mr. Matthews, “we must then stay home, I guess.”

Mr. Brokaw said, “No,” adding a moment later, “but we don’t have to get in the business of making judgments before the polls have closed, and trying to stampede, in effect, the process.”
In the original transcript, this is what Brokaw really said:
BROKAW: We know from how the people voted today, what moved them to vote. You can take a look at that. No, no we don’t stay home. There are reasons to analyze what they’re saying. There are a lot of issues that have not been fully explored during all this.

But we don’t have to get in the business of making judgments before the polls have closed. And trying to stampede, in effect, the process.
What we think is, some editor at the Times bet Steinberg and Elder two beers that they couldn't write a horse-race piece about how rotten the New Hampshire horse-race media coverage was without touching on at least some substance, somewhere; perhaps an "issue" that has "not been fully explored."

Steinberg and Elder said, "You're on!" And they won.

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