by Walter Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
March 9, 2008
BEWARE THE SELF-REVERENTIAL PRESS
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- Shortly before the primary votes this past week, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter called Sen. Barack Obama's surge to the Democratic nomination "inevitable." It also called for Hillary Clinton to "start her campaign for Senate majority leader."
Newsweek was one of only dozens of national media that made that "analysis." But the voters had their own ideas.
Sen. Clinton took Ohio by a wide margin, sneaked to victory in Texas, and as expected won Rhode Island, ending Obama's 11-state victory streak in smaller states. Obama still needs about 500 more delegate votes to assure the nomination, while Hillary needs 600. There's no "inevitable" in that math.
Reporters and columnists, pundits, pollsters, and blowhards just can't seem to get it right. They want to be erudite and prescient but they got it horribly wrong in New Hampshire, and tried to scramble their failed predictions by saying that Sen. Clinton had a "surprising" win. It was only surprising to the press and pollsters who confidently predicted an Obama win.
The media have also been weak in figuring out the effect of a heavy Republican cross-over vote that tended to favor Obama and skew results in Wisconsin, Texas, and other states that allow Republicans to temporarily become Democrats. Rush Limbaugh's show, conversely, was full of Republicans who crossed over in the open Texas primary to vote for Hillary Clinton, whom neocons believe would be the weaker Democratic candidate..
And a large number of members of the media still haven't learned that people often don't make up their minds until they are looking at the ballot. Even the so-called scientific exit polls are based upon people actually telling those pesky pollsters the truth, which they often do not.
The media hover over the candidates and their campaign staffs, ride the same buses and fly on the same airplanes. They are herded from place to place, blindly following directions to what they believe are the best seats in the house.
When there are moments to rest, the gaggle flock together, chat with each other and compare notes, especially about which superdelegate is likely to vote for which candidate. For dessert, they chat with the pollsters.
What the media have not been doing is getting into the trenches with the people, nor spending more than a gnat's attention span on them. Only when they do will we have better understand that democracy is about the people, not the candidates.
AR Correspondent Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of mass communications at Bloomsburg University. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at amazon.com and other bookstores. Reach him at hisWebsite.