Aug
14
2013

What's the Message of Clinton's Noncampaign for the Office She Might Run for in Three Years?

Dan Balz

Hillary Clinton hasn't announced that she's running for president in 2016, and launched a campaign yet. But the Washington Post is already complaining that her nonexistent campaign for an office she may or may not seek lacks a clear message. "Clinton’s gender likely would be a significant asset," writes chief correspondent Dan Balz (8/12/13), adding: "It, however, is not a message." One has to admire the first 44 presidents of the United States, each of whom somehow managed to achieve the office without the benefit of this asset. The next day (8/13/13), Post columnist Richard Cohen picked up on Balz's […]

Jul
24
2013

Nate Silver Didn't Fit In at the New York Times Because He Believed in the Real World

Nate Silver's failure to fit in with the culture of the New York Times illustrates the difference between objectivity and "objectivity"–the latter being the belief that it's impossible to know what's real, so all you can do is report the claims made by various (powerful) people.

Jun
13
2013

O'Reilly Discovers the Dangers of the Surveillance State

oreilly-surveillance

Republicans who were less concerned about government overreach in 2006 have changed their minds in 2013, and some Democrats have gone the other direction. This switch can be seen in the views of some pundits–including Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.

Jun
07
2013

How Many Iraqis Died in the Iraq War?

Map of Iraqi Civilian Casualties

How many Iraqis died in the Iraq War? Public responses to that question are disheartening because they reflect a very distorted public perception of the war. But they are indicative of an even bigger problem: corporate media's inadequate coverage of the human costs of U.S.-led wars.

May
03
2013

Killing Civilians Is More Popular Than You'd Think–Especially Among Pundits

Gallup polling on whether it's OK for individuals to kill civilians.

Where do Americans get the idea that it's OK to kill civilians? Could it be that they're listening to media pundits?

Apr
03
2013

Keystone Polling and an Oil Spill Time Machine

usat-keystone

Reporting positive polling for the Keystone XL pipeline, USA Today reports, "The numbers come amid continuing efforts to clean up a major new oil spill in Arkansas." But "come amid" is another way of saying "entirely unrelated to."

Feb
11
2013

A Beltway Villager's Bad Advice for Obama

220px-Chris_Cillizza_2012_05

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote a piece giving Barack Obama some advice on what to say in his State of the Union address. The article almost reads like a parody of Beltway punditry.

Jan
25
2013

'Divided' on Abortion Rights?

IMG_GTY_38TH_ANNUAL.jpg_1_1_RV38FCTG

USA Today's point in covering this weekend's anti-choice "March for Life" is is to note that, 40 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, the country is divided on abortion rights. That's an odd way of describing a 24-point spread in public opinion

Dec
17
2012

Does the Public Really Oppose Gun Restrictions?

Gun store sign near Phoenix, Arizona. (photo: Xomiele)

One issue that comes up in much of the coverage of the Newtown massacre is the notion that the public's view on gun control has shifted towards the "pro-gun" side in recent years. It's important to look at that assumption.

Nov
08
2012

Mittmentum: Reporters Thought He Might Win Because He Said So

Asked about the pre-election sense that Mitt Romney might win the election, CNN reporter Candy Crowley told viewers (11/7/12): There was an optimism in the Romney camp. But it wasn't based on the numbers. It was based on the feel of things. And one thing you know when you cover a campaign, the feel of things can be really deceiving. She's not alone–others had the same sense that the numbers couldn't be what they were. A Politico story (10/31/12) reported that this feeling was fairly widespread among elite media: Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign says it still has momentum. President Barack […]

Nov
07
2012

Has Nate Silver Ruined Campaign Journalism?

silver

The results are in: Nate Silver won the election. The New York Times' polling/stats wonk was projecting an Obama victory, and it looks like he basically nailed it. Of course, this outcome thrills Silver's many fans, and has shown pretty clearly that the people the corporate media rely on to make election predictions aren't really good at the thing they're supposed to be good at doing. This is revealing, and should raise the usual questions about why some of these people continue to appear on television as election experts. But since it's very hard to lose your Pundit License, it's […]

Nov
05
2012

I Predict Dana Milbank Will Continue to Personify False Balance

After establishing that Republican operative Karl Rove is a terrible political prognosticator, Dana Milbank (Washington Post, 11/2/12) does the false-balance thing and attacks polling blogger Nate Silver: Rove is an easy target because his motive–conveying a false sense of momentum for Republicans–is so transparent. But he has plenty of company among prognosticators who confidently predict that which they cannot possibly know. There's Nate Silver, a statistician-blogger at the New York Times, who predicts with scientific precision that President Obama will win 303 electoral votes and beat Romney by 2 percentage points in the popular vote. He gives Obama an 81 […]

Nov
02
2012

Politico Makes You Glad Election Is Almost Over

Nate Silver

The gossipy, horse race-obsessed outlet Politico ran a story on October 29 about the credibility of polling expert Nate Silver, whose 538 blog at the New York Times is a must-read for people interested in election forecasting. What Silver does isn't, on one level, all that tricky–his model combines national and state polls and generates probabilities about election outcomes. This model finds it highly likely that Barack Obama will win the election. It's probability, not a crystal ball or a bet. Politico's Dylan Byers notes that Silver's model says this "even as the polls have [Romney] almost neck-and-neck with the incumbent." […]