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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Griper Blade: The Savvy Idiots of Political Journalism

My view is that there’s nothing that’s secret in campaigns anymore — but that doesn’t mean everything is understandable in a campaign. The ability of campaigns to run circles around journalists in some places is strong, and it’s not healthy.
-Terry Nelson, John McCain's 2008 campaign manager.

It isn't getting much coverage -- and it's easy to understand why. In a New York Times op-ed over the weekend, journalist and author Sasha Issenberg informs us that nearly everything journalists think they know about political campaigns is wrong and those misconceptions are reflected in reporting.

I covered the 2008 election for The Boston Globe, filing articles that I hoped would rise above the superficial and ephemeral poll-driven reporting that I had been trained to disdain. But after spending the last two years reporting on the scientific revolution that is quietly reshaping politics, I realized how much of the story my colleagues and I had missed.

Over the last decade, almost entirely out of view, campaigns have modernized their techniques in such a way that nearly every member of the political press now lacks the specialized expertise to interpret what’s going on. Campaign professionals have developed a new conceptual framework for understanding what moves votes. It’s as if restaurant critics remained oblivious to a generation’s worth of new chefs’ tools and techniques and persisted in describing every dish that came out of the kitchen as either “grilled” or “broiled.”

“When I went to work for my first campaign, in 1994, I was actually surprised at how journalists tended to think one step ahead where campaigns are four steps ahead,” says Joel Benenson, a former newspaper reporter who now serves as President Obama’s chief pollster. “Think of it as a level-five player in chess and a level-eight player in chess. You had people covering campaigns who are at the mercy of the grandmasters of politics.”...[CLICK TO READ FULL POST]

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