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All week long reporters and pundits have been issuing apologies for the coverage from New Hampshire, during which it was almost universally declared that Barack Obama would emerge as the Democratic nominee. One piece worth checking out is in Politico. “New Hampshire sealed it,” the story begins. “The winner was Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the loser—not just of Tuesday’s primary but of the 2008 campaign cycle so far—was us. ‘Us’ is the community of reporters, pundits and prognosticators who so confidently—and so rashly—stake our reputations on the illusion that we understand politics and have special insight that allows us to predict the behavior of voters.”
The story sought to identify what went wrong in the coverage. Among the problems it pointed to was the “echo chamber”:
Check out the nicer restaurants in Manchester, N.H., or Des Moines, Iowa, in the political season and you will see the same group of journalists and pols dining together almost every night. We go to events together, make travel plans together and read each other’s work compulsively. We go to the same websites—the Drudge Report, Real Clear Politics, Time’s “The Page”—to see what each other is writing, and it’s only human nature to respond to it. That is one chief reason the… “Hillary is toast” narratives developed so quickly and spread so rapidly.
I wrote an item last Monday on presidential press coverage, saying, “the rooting for Obama and McCain sometimes seems almost palpable.” The Politico piece discussed this as well, saying “it has been tough to avoid a sense this week that some of the coverage has been shaped by journalists rooting for certain outcomes”:
NBC’s Brian Williams stirred some controversy earlier in the week when he reported that his network’s correspondent covering Obama admitted it was hard to be objective covering the Illinois senator… McCain also benefits from the personal sentiments of reporters. Many journalists are enamored with McCain because of the access he gives and, above all, the belief that he is free of political artifice.
It’s worth reading the whole thing.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”