Deggans on CNN Discussing What Media Should Have Learned From New Hampshire
Looks like Howard Kurtz hasn't yet learned his lesson, inviting me to participate on his CNN show Reliable Sources at 10 a.m. Sunday. I'm looking forward to talking about the media coverage of this week's primaries in New Hampshire, which found a lot of gasbags wiping egg off their face when Hillary Clinton produced a surprise victory on the Democratic side.
I can give a preview here of what I'll likely discuss, in a brief summary:
Media Keeps Forgetting Past Lessons -- If the 2000 election taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't believe polls. And for a while, TV pundits in particular avoided making predictions based on opinion polls, which in the end can't really tell you what decision people will make in the privacy of a voting booth. But Iowa's caucus results, which were so close to the big poll results, suckered everyone into believing that they could predict New Hampshire as well. Now we know -- people are closely divided over a field of pretty good candidates, and picking the eventual winner will be difficult for everyone.
Why Is Media Stuck on Proving It's Own Points? -- Former Clinton advisor Paul Begala presents an engaging blog entry on the Huffington Post detailing how he tried to tell Fox News reporter Major Garrett he was not joining Hillary Clinton's campaign. Despite three emailed denials, Garrett only said he would take the information "under advisement." I've seen the same reporting regarding New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's possible presidential ambitions. He keeps saying he's not running, and the media keeps saying he's preparing to run. Again, can we wait until something actually happens before we report it?
Never Count Out the Clintons -- If you ask me, Hillary Clinton's biggest strength as a candidate is that people -- including the media -- constantly underestimate her. Now that she's managed a victory which gives a big finger to every pundit who tried writing her political obituary -- the same way her husband did 16 years ago -- maybe folks will ease up a little and let her run her campaign.
Stop Trying to Pronounce Winners -- As NBC anchor emeritus Tom Brokaw so astutely pointed out Tuesday, it's time for the press to stop trying to predict who will win this contest and stick with the facts. Unfortunately, that is exactly how cable TV in particular fills its 24-hour election coverage. Can Chris Matthews get through an evening of election coverage without loosing some off the wall prediction? Which leads to my next point....
Media Now Must Serve Public, Not Itself -- For the media, picking winners is about being first among competitors, looking important to the political world and earning bragging rights -- none of which helps the public. New Hampshire's vote made it clear; the public needs information which will help it choose between a crowded field of good candidates. Serious vetting of candidate claims. You know, journalism. What it doesn't need: Bad predictions about how they are going to vote.