There are horse races, and then there are horse races
Thursday, June 07, 2012 - 04:28 PM
This weekend’s Belmont Stakes could make I’ll Have Another the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, and attempts to predict the race abound in the sport-specific and mainstream press alike. All the hubbub—speculation about whether I’ll Have Another’s dismal starting post will hurt his chances, rundowns of his biggest competitors, endless rehashing of his pedigree and purchase price—reminds you why ‘horserace journalism’ has become a popular way to describe election coverage.
In the same way, political horse race journalism is characterized by measuring a candidate’s chances in tiny, excruciating increments that end up explaining nothing about the race at hand.
Even when political journalists try to avoid using the horse race metaphor explicitly, it can still permeate their stories. After all, campaigns exhaustively vet candidates, dark horse candidates jockey for position against the frontrunner, and all the candidates head for the homestretch come November.
Some reporting about actual horses may serve as an example to political reporters getting caught up in election horse races.
Here are two examples: Laura Hillenbrand’s meticulously-researched Seabiscuit: An American Legend and the great, multi-part investigative series from The New York Times, Breakdown: Death and disarray at America’s racetracks.
For a more creative take, there’s Hunter S. Thompson’s New Journalism classic, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.”