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.