Thursday, January 10, 2008

Appearances versus reality

You would think that after the Dewey Defeats Truman embarrassment suffered by the Chicago Tribune (noted in this Wikipedia article on the United States presidential election of 1948), there wouldn't be a paper on Earth that would court making the same mistake. But no.

In a follow-up post, Robert shows that an attempt to explain why they goofed didn't help matters much, if at all.

Robert quotes his mother in the second post, and I think she might have a point that pollsters and pundits might want to keep in mind:
The media never understood that most women over 50 don’t go to political rallies. But they do vote. So while the Hannah Montanas were filling Obama’s rallies and the media loved that, when push came to shove their mothers and grandmothers turned out in bigger droves to vote not for the media’s rock idol, but for the mature lady: Hillary.
Friends, let's not get into commentary about how mature she is or isn't, please. Not here, at any rate. The point I think is a valid one. If you put too much stock in political rallies, you'll miss the voters who typically don't go to rallies, and that's most of us, at a guess.

Do you ever wonder if our news industry would be healthier if television had never been invented, or, more precisely, if somehow television news hadn't become obsessed with video footage? I don't know about you, but one of my peeves with many folks in television news is how often they run footage or put up a picture that doesn't go with a particular story, but apparently strikes them as similar enough to illustrate the piece.

OK, OK, so it's not just television. Back in my newspaper days, I was assigned to do a feature on birdwatching opportunities in the area. The news editor illustrated my piece on white pelicans with a photo of a brown pelican. He never could seem to figure out why I thought experienced birdwatchers (not to mention a sizable percentage of third graders, just for instance) might find that jarring, to put it politely. Argh, even. His contention was that "a pelican's a pelican." (Perhaps it's time to modify the saying about "Close enough for government work"?)

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