IS THERE SUCH A THING AS JOURNALISTIC MALPRACTICE?

…And, if there is, what would the appropriate penalty be?

Anyone who ever doubts the depth of the shock Donald Trump delivered to the political system (and the supposedly no-longer-extant Establishment behind it), would do well to read this analysis of the 2016 election–delivered a few weeks before election day by the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza.

For those who may not want to read the whole thing (and my still bleeding eyes are strong evidence it may not be good for your health so consider yourself warned) here are the key points that got my interest, all these months later:

Over the past 72 hours, polls have come out in AlaskaTexas and Utah that show Trump narrowly ahead of Hillary Clinton. That comes on top of data that suggests Republican-friendly states likes Arizona and Georgia are already a jump ball between Clinton and Trump….

Simply put: Trump is not just in danger of losing, he is in danger of causing a fundamental reorganization of the electoral map that could set back Republicans for a number of future elections…..

The problem for Trump is that the group of people who support him is not now and never has been large enough to get him anywhere close to the 270 electoral votes he needs….

Cilliza nicely sums up established thinking, as of Oct. 14, 2016. But there’s no need to pick on him. If one were to decide that journalistic malpractice included substituting wishful thinking (bordering on delusion), for reportage, then he should have been fired the day after the election (more on that in a moment). Only problem is–you’d have to fire his entire support system as well. All the editors and publishers who supported him–and the dozens of like-minded “journalists” who spouted similar pablum (and who accepted polls that were designed to bring them the results they wanted as “news”).

That would have meant just about everybody–including the bulk of the actual pollsters who provided the underlying mush that could then be reported as news, and half the talking heads Fox News (the only place where there was something of a bloodbath, though, even there, everyone was careful to pretend it was for different, completely unrelated reasons).

And how mushy was the underlying mush? How delusional was Cilizza’s reporting?

This mushy. This delusional:

Cillizza identified five “shocker” states, where Trump could lose historical Republican advantages, and five “purple” states, considered true swing states (with Arizona, oddly, placed in both categories), which, by definition would fall Clinton’s way if the “realignment” he was effectively predicting–and encouraging his ideologically pre-selected readership to embrace as a hard truth (the bit where he reminds folks it’s not a done deal yet is the kind of weasel-tongue I was taught to avoid the first week of my junior college journalism course–and every week thereafter).

Here’s how the election held twenty-five days later actually played out in those “toss-up” states which were going to “cause a fundamental reorganization of the electoral map.”

First, those where he “narrowly led”:

Alaska–Trump by 15.2%
Utah–Trump by 18.6%
Texas–Trump by 9.2%

Next, the “jumpballs”:

Georgia–Trump by 5.7%
Arizona–Trump by 4.1%

Then, finally, the swing states that were practically guaranteed for Clinton by Cilliza’s logic:

Florida–Trump by 1.3%
North Carolina–Trump by 3.8%
Ohio–Trump by 8.6%
Arizona (again)–Trump by 4.1%
Nevada–Clinton by 2.4%

Hey, one out of nine ain’t bad!

But we shouldn’t forget that states Cilizza and the world within which he remains safely ensconced didn’t even put Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin in play. Trump won them all.

And, as of today, there is no credible evidence Democrats can flip even a single state in 2020.

Outside the polls, of course.

No wonder so many people done gone crazy.

2 thoughts on “IS THERE SUCH A THING AS JOURNALISTIC MALPRACTICE?

  1. NDJ

    • On October 26, 2016, Clinton was anywhere from 6-12 points ahead of Trump in just about every poll in the country.

    • On October 27, 2016, FBI head James Comey announced yet another investigation into yet more Clinton emails, these found on the computer of one of her aides.

    • On October 28, 2016, Clinton’s lead began slipping.

    • On November 6, 2016, Comey announced that the earlier announcement was—like all the other announcements about Clinton’s emails—much ado about nothing.

    According to USA Today, “analysts in both parties believe the initial Comey letter [the “October Surprise 2″ letter above] has had consequences that can’t be reversed by the follow-up letter nine days later—an interval when 40 million Americans cast early ballots.

    For one thing, it staunched rising momentum for Clinton, causing enough concern that she largely shelved plans to adopt a more positive message in the campaign’s close in favor of continued attack on her rival.”

    • On November 8, 2016, Clinton still beat Trump by 2.9 million votes.

    • On December 19, 2016, the Electoral College made Trump the President of the United States.

    It can easily be argued that Comey stole the electoral victory from Clinton and handed it to Trump. Had he held back his “October surprise” until it had been properly vetted (like the FBI usually does), Clinton might have won by 10 million votes.

    In which case we wouldn’t be discussing Clizza’s writing.

    For this horrendous act—unprecedented in American election history—Comey is being toasted by Dems and got a big fat book contract that will make him millions of dollars.

    Comey, a lifelong Rep*blican, has now joined the Top One Percenters.

    I hope no one finds that ironic.

    This entire narrative has been effectively swept under the rug by American news media …

    EDN

    • Well, of course, being a loyal reader, you got to follow along with my thoughts on Jim Comey in real time (I insisted he was a weasel and warned everybody not to trust him in July, when Democrats were universally toasting him as, among other things, a man of the highest possible integrity for exonerating Ms. Clinton).

      That Comey is a Republican bears little weight (that he’s a weasel is the thing to bear in mind). Plenty of Trump’s most virulent haters are establishment Repubs of just his sort. The most important thing he’s admitted in his latest round of weaselhood is that he expected her to win…no doubt he was influenced by articles like Cilliza’s, which I represent only as a token sample of the narratives being put forth by all major media (including most of the big names at Fox).

      There are a lot of different views on why he “reopened” (not really) the Clinton matter (which he was not allowed to call an investigation by the sitting attorney general). My own feeling is that it was a warning shot to the Clintons, as they were about to retake power in the Imperial City, the not-so-subtle subtext of which was: “Don’t forget we still own you.”

      But that’s just me.

      Two additional thoughts:

      Polls mean little until about two weeks before any election, for the simple reason that pollsters are ALL trying to influence voters (which voters depends on the ideology of the pollster or simply who is paying them to reach their particular foregone conclusion). They get more honest towards the end because they don’t like to have egg on their face come election day. Makes it harder to collect those fat paychecks in the next cycle when you have a reputation for being wrong. But usually nobody remembers any poll taken more than a week or two before the election. It’s one reason polls often “shift” two to five points in the final week–because when they are about to be measured against something concrete, like votes, everybody has skin in the game.

      Also, state polls–upon which Cilliza was basing his article–are notoriously inaccurate (mostly because nobody puts a lot of thought or money into them–embarrassingly wrong “polling” in primaries is common–see Bernie Sanders in Michigan last time around for an example. One thing Trump’s rendering the popular vote meaningless might have is more attention will be paid in future, state by state. Might prevent those embarrassing 20-30 point mistakes.

      That would be a good effect….but we shall see.

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