This Globe story is unique in its sloppiness, for sure. It is hard to mistake Luzerne, Pa for Pittsburgh, Pa. I do think, however, the mistake with the map is indicative of the general problem that major news outlets have with covering these races: everything looks the same to them. From the Globe's perspective, PA 11 and PA 18 are indistinguishable. Nobody in the Globe's bureau knew enough about either district to pipe up and say, "Hey! Ya got that wrong, pal!" Similarly, nobody knows enough to comment intelligently on whether the Democrats stand a reasonable shot in any of the districts in question. They are just ignorant of the nuances of this topic.I wonder if these are some of the same crack reporters whom Molly Ivins was discussing when she was extolling the special skills that reporters have in covering a story.
The media's response to this information problem has not been to send a copy editor out to pick up a copy of the 2006 Almanac of American Politics and spend some time researching the districts. The response, rather, has been to develop what I would call The 2006 Template for when Bush's Numbers are Down. You take one party's spin about the election as the baseline for the story. Quote the DCCC at length, toss in a quote from a professor at some local school, toss in another quote or two from nervous Republican-types, and you got yourself a story about '06!
When Bush's numbers go back up, you just use the handy 2006 Template for when Bush's Numbers are Up. This time, you take the RCCC's spin as the baseline. Quote a bunch of Democrats who think their party is blowing it worse than Chamberlain at Munich, toss in a quote from a professor at some local school, and you got yourself a story about '06!
Apparently, it is asking too much of reporters covering the congressional races to actually learn a thing or two about the races that they are covering before they report on them. All we can expect is either of these templates and a failure to distinguish Southwestern from Northeastern Pennsylvania. We must be satisfied with the press using partisan spin as the foundation for unquestioning, vacuous, factually sloppy stories about the election.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Jay Cost has a post up at the RCP blog ridiculing a Boston Globe story on the 2006 congressional races in the Northeast. First, he notices that their map accompanying the story inidicating which districts the DNC is targeting misidentifies some of the districts. He then points out how the reporter failed to mention the difficulties that the DNC had in recruiting quality challengers for these targeted districts. Finally, he observes what this sloppiness in reporting says about how reporters cover elections in general.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 3:49 PM