Category Archives: Mass Media in the 2012 Elec.

Frame #2: The War Between Datajournalists and Dinojornalists

by Categorized: Mass Media in the 2012 Elec., Politix, Uncategorized Date:

Nate Silver is tired of apologizing. Today, on the Nose, we’ll be talking about that.

He was Mr. Infallible in 2008 and 2012. During this cycle, he has often appeared to have roughly the same grasp of what was unfolding as these two numbskulls.IMG_1568

The same could be said for 99.9 percent of the people covering this race, irrespective of whether they were using data, shoe leather, political wisdom or ouija boards. But the struggles of the quants have elicited chuckles from some of the old school political reporters who felt dissed by the “Why Aren’t You Great Like Nate?” tenor or the recent cycles.

This month, the gloves came off.  It started with a piece by NYT media columnist Jim Rutenberg which was at least nominally a “nostra culpa.” “We got it wrong,” writes Rutenberg. But the column did seem heavily weighted toward criticisms of quants like Silver who were unfavorably contrasted by the author with reporters who occasionally get up from their laptops and talk to real people.

It didn’t go over well. On the Elections podcast of 538, Silver and his confederates — but especially Nate — tore into Rutenberg  as “snide and dismissive” and obtuse and unhelpful back in the days when 538 lived at the NYT. The tirade starts around 30:00 on the counter here and doesn’t stop for a while.

And then came Silver’s core dump: a 6,000-word treatise on what went wrong. One of his premises, amusingly, was that he and his datajournalists fell into the trap of thinking like dinojournalists, the kinds of pundits who eyeball a situation and attach a lot of certainty to their guesses. Who does that remind you of? Yes, the 538 gang momentarily succumbed to being the kind of fool they’re pretty sure Rutenberg is every waking minute. Another problem was extenuating circumstances, which seems like not much of a defense. One thing them circumstances do, pretty reliably, is extenuate.

Still, Silver is never not fascinating. I happen to enjoy both him and Rutenberg. His piece is a great read. But any time you have to write 6,000 words about your own performance, there’s a 92 percent chance that you have taken a wrong turn and gone 72 percent of the way up your own anus.


Sting Like a Bee

by Categorized: Mass Media in the 2012 Elec. Date:

This is a great meme-analysis.  It also needs to be read all the way through because, as Greenwald pointed out on Twitter today, Coates doesn’t stay on one track all the way through.  I enjoy Coates on the Atlantic site, but it might be time for the Times to grab him as a for-real on-the-page columnist.

The shift Coates describes is one we need to watch all the way through. One reason he’s hitting Romney so hard is the old axiom: by the end of your first term, the voters have a fully formed impression of you. You can’t do much to change that. Your resources are better alllocated to changing voters’ impression of the other guy.  Paradoxically, that very effort may change some perceptions of Obama.



Memecheck #1

by Categorized: Mass Media in the 2012 Elec., Uncategorized Tagged: Date:

I’m starting to pull together material for my fall course at Trinity, and I may as well put some of it here.

How will the media cover the hate issue? And how will those notions about Obama most effectively spread? This lays out the way “You didn’t build that” couples with the notion that Obama is strange and angry. And there’s the notion that Obama rejects exceptionalism.

For Romney the most destructive memes right now are the offshore accounts (which are rather unusual for a presidential candidate). In a lot of ways the negatives on Romney are, at their core, similar to those on Obama — at least in the sense that each man will be painted by the opposition as “different,” “hidden” and unknowable.

The place to watch polls, by the way, is with Nate Silver.