Owning a press doesn’t make you right

Owning a press doesn’t make you right
: John Podhoretz tears political reporters new bodily orifices today:

The results last night in New Hampshire represent a humiliating disaster for the mainstream media. The political reporters and editors who have been judging this race for a year have made utter fools of themselves.

Nobody foresaw John Kerry’s huge victory in Iowa…. The press failed just as miserably in New Hampshire – but this time by overestimating and overrating John Edwards….

There was no such thing as the Edwards surge. He ended up somewhere around 12 percent, a spectacularly dismal showing considering that he had scored 32 percent in Iowa only eight days before.

And speaking of spectacularly dismal showings, how about Wesley Clark?…

But there could be no more infamous an example of the political media’s gullibility than the Zeppelin candidacy of Howard Dean….

It was all basically bull. The same wide-eyed, breathless nonsense has been thrown at us for decades by wide-eyed, breathless journalists who are desperate to catch lightning in a bottle and get famous for spotting the Next Big Thing….

The press has been wrong about everything. Everything. Keep that in mind for the rest of the year. You can be sure that the political media won’t remind you of it.

Jay Rosen might say that the problem is turning the campaign into a horse race. But I say we want some level of race handicapping; we want to know who’s in front because we want to back winners and use our votes well. The problem isn’t race handicapping, it’s bad handicapping, it’s being wrong. The pollsters have been wrong, the pundits have been way wrong. But we’ve never had alternatives. And we’ll never know what impact the predictions alone have on the races (did more people vote for Edwards and Clark, in the Podhoretz formula, because they believed reports of a groundswell?).

I wonder whether the collected wisdom on blogs would do any better (it would be nice if somebody had a way to quantify the morning line on blogs). I don’t think it would. Pundits with or without press are still just pundits. It’s the voters who matter, as it should be.

So the bottom line is Podhoretz’ bottom line: Everything you read everywhere is wrong.

: Newsweek’s Howard Fineman on Today, admitting he had been ready to write Kerry’s campaign obit only recently: “The lesson to take from the last couple of weeks is don’t jump to conclusions.”

: Wonkette’s guide to press reliability.

: UPDATE: Al Giordano proposes a law of media, politics, and punditry:

Before we should take any statement or prediction or political judgment seriously on the Internet, or in any Commercial Media, or other kind of media, we must demand that the plaintiff show us that he or she has been correct in such claims before. Otherwise, it’s just a theory, without any proof that the theoretician has any idea what he or she is talking about.