The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Friday, January 11, 2008


On Wednesday morning, reporters, pundits and pollsters marveled at how little voters had heeded their New Hampshire primary predictions. But Christopher Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation, argues that campaign coverage is bound to fail because of the flawed structure of covering the presidential race. Hot off the trail he offers a corrective.

Comments [13]

Dale From Chelsea from New York, NY

In your on-air interview with Christopher Hayes from The Nation, he stated that reporters are embedded in each Presidential campaign: About the voters he said, “You have to psych yourself up to go into the crowd and talk to these people, who don’t necessarily want to talk to a reporter . The easiest people to talk to are other reporters. … When you have to file all the time, you have no time to think. I was on the Edwards bus for 30 hours straight at one point and got back to my room. And I was like, ‘you know what I did to do? I need to spend like four hours in front of Google, looking at things and not just the constant perceptual stimulus of the campaign.’ Because I have zero perspective on what I just heard and what just happened. And I need to go and like look at the census data for these towns we were in and actually see what happened with that middle that we just went through.” Brooke Gladstone’s response: “You sound like people analyzing the reporting from Iraq during the war.”

The answer is clear: we need local reporters who can invest time in the community to establish relationships. They need to live alongside the common people in order to understand them.

Drive-by national news does not develop trust. Pundits who yell over callers does not take the place of listening to their concerns. No wonder the news media got it so wrong.

Jan. 18 2008 05:23 PM
Dale From Chelsea from New York, NY

Back when I was cutting audiotape in a newsroom, one reporter made it her business to implant herself into the fragile community of minority and abused women. Although she was in neither category, that reporter took time to establish her credibility and trustworthiness among the women. She could then give voice to the concerns of the disenfranchised. Like the military, our media should be focused on the phrase: “We are only as strong as our weakest link.” Instead the weak are told what to think by pundits who draw upwards of six-figure paychecks but pretend to be “the little guy.”

Jan. 18 2008 05:23 PM
Dale From Chelsea from New York, NY

Listening to your segment about “How The Pundits Got It Wrong in New Hampshire” I realized that the past holds the answer to this rhetorical question.

The word “pundit” – derived from “learned” in it original Sanskrit (“pandita”) – is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “one who gives opinions in an authoritative manner”. Our modern-day pundits are not experts but those who offers loud opinions; not information or facts.

An ethical reporter presents facts and not his or her opinion. This was the journalistic standard since before the inception of radio and TV and until the 1980’s. That model was epitomized by journalists like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Bill Moyers. However, the deregulation of our public airwaves and media consolidation has spawned exactly the opposite – reporters cannot get hired and partisan pundits preside.

The public is not protected from misinformation and has no access to the airwaves they own. The FCC no longer sees either of these as their job. Money rules the roost and ex-Commissioners take jobs with big media companies without a thought to their own integrity.

Jan. 18 2008 05:21 PM
Jack from Chicago

Yeah, only politicians should be able to use polls to determine their stand on issues and legislative proposals.

Jan. 17 2008 11:43 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

The media do a good job of getting the horse race wrong. Look at 2004 and, worse, 2000! It would have been very hard to get 2004 wrong.

Issue reporting, there's a novel and useful tack! Let us hear more of it.

Jan. 17 2008 11:27 PM
Eric Goebelbecker from Maywood, NJ

Ooops. I commented on the wrong story earlier:

Q: What's the difference between Chris Matthews and Bill O'Reilly?
A: Sometimes Chris Matthews is *deliberately* entertaining.

Seriously, why give Tweety so much attention? MSNBC may be willing to pretend that's he's more than a "personality", but why should you? You know better!

Jan. 15 2008 03:10 PM
Amy from Chicago

Wonderful story. So glad I heard it.
I completely echo the sentiments of Pat (Boston) and Joe (Woodbury). 100%.
(not to be lazy - it's just that I couldn't have said it better myself)
(...that, and I had a few glasses of champagne with dinner I probably really COULDN'T have said it any better myself...haha..)

Jan. 13 2008 10:44 PM
Alan McKenney from Tarrytown, NY

I was disappointed in this story. The story seemed to be discussing whether the Emperor has any boots on, when the real story is that the Emperor is buck-naked.

First of all, the coverage of this campaign has been almost content-free. The Mainstream Media (MSM), which includes NPR, has mainly focussed on its own opinions of what and how the candidates are doing, while dropping discussion of candidate's platforms and proposals like a hot rock.

Second, the MSM have virtually ignored the increasingly blatant sexism in the attacks on Clinton, perhaps because the MSM have been a major source of these attacks. One explanation for Clinton's unexpected showing in New Hampshire was that women in particular saw a connection between the sexism that Clinton faces and the sexism they themselves endure every day, but I don't hear this in the MSM (or in OTM)

Jan. 13 2008 09:49 PM
Joseph Lucas from Woodbury, NJ

One of the finest interviews I have ever heard.
Christopher Hayes is without a doubt an extremely intelligent and articulate person. It was with great pleasure that I listened to his thoughts.
No less amazing, Brooke asked questions that resonated with me in a visceral way. Her interaction with both Hayes and this listener revealed a facile wit and delightful humor.
Thank you for being there.

Jan. 13 2008 07:56 PM
Steve Friess (pronounced FREESE) from Las Vegas

As a Vegas-based freelancer covering the NV caucuses for several major publications including the NYT, Newsweek and the AFP, there is one overlooked element in the problem of campaign-trail journalists: Unearned arrogance. I dined with a group of traveling reporters following Clinton at a Mexican restaurant in Vegas while waiting for her to arrive for an event. These reporters had a true resource sitting at that table, someone who knows the city, lives in that very neighborhood, who remembers when the restaurant burned down and was rebuilt three years ago. I even couldve pointed them to inventive menu items versus, symbolic of their coverage, ordering the predictable tamales + enchiladas. But after shaking my hand, noone asked a single question about LV, its politics, the people or anything that might've informed their work. These people are a NY-based clique. They don't care. Can't wait to hear the analysis to come after the caucuses! Then they'll be off to brutalize another state, no doubt

Jan. 13 2008 05:03 PM
pat from boston, MA

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! for pointing out the failure of the press coverage of political campaigns. Even as a confirmed NPR addict, I shut off the radio whenever this inane and hysterical coverage comes on. At least 90% of the headline stories are on either (1) speculation about the "horserace" or (2) coverage of the negative things Candidate A said about Candidate B. The latter is NOT NEWS until it has been checked for accuracy.

Though I was not even an Edwards supporter, I was outraged by the media's casting the NH Democratic primary as a two person race. Between Iowa and NH, I don't think I heard Edwards mentioned once. This bias in coverage affects the outcome of election, and that is not the press's job. If the press were being paid by Republicans who did not want to run against him, they could not have done a better job.

I used to live in MT, where a local man ran for president every 4 years for the Magnetohydrodynamics Party- OK, he did not deserve equal coverage, but all the major candidates do. Otherwise, the press makes the decision about who is a viable candidate, instead of informing the citizens so that WE can make that decision.

Jan. 13 2008 10:52 AM
Mike from Manhattan

I am a big Obama supporter, to be straight, but look at this from the Clinton campaign's perspective for a second. Eary-mid 2007: An internal memo advising she skip Iowa leaks, forcing her to stay in whatever her inclination would otherwise have been. Flash forward to Jan 3: she loses Iowa (shocker), then goes on to win her fail-safe, sweet spot N.H. Where's the story?

Ok, so take Obama's standpoint(or Edwards' for that matter): from early on, the MSM dumps frontrunner status on Clinton, causing the summary judgement that if she wins Iowa the thing is over; we'll be back to talk to you after Labor Day. So what are your options? Win Iowa--that's the extent of them. So you do, and for three days MSM acts as if you've allready won NH too! There was absolutely no good news that could have come out of NH for Obama at that point. On Wall Street, they would say a win there was already priced into his stock. So then Clinton "Comeback Kid II" taks the state and, whoa, she's the front runner again. But it was her fail-safe state!

The problem is not so much looking through the drinking strawm but that campaign writers don't seem to remember what they were writing just last week.

Jan. 12 2008 12:44 PM
Linda Beutler from Portland OR

Attention media and pollsters: It's not about you. Surely I'm not the only listener to have pointed this out to you. The failure of the pollsters and pundits and plain ole reporters to pre-guess the outcome of the New Hampshire primary results is NOT A NATIONAL CRISIS. How many more important stories have gone unreported because of your incessant hand-wringing? In an election year, I want to know where the candidates are, what they're doing, what they're saying, who is giving them money. I can decide for myself what to make of it all. Don't tell me what to think, and don't tell me how someone else says they are going to vote. Tell me how they did vote. Don't call me and ask me how I'll vote. After the very late Oregon primary, you'll know.
Linda Beutler

Jan. 11 2008 11:46 PM

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